Mayor Emanuel rejects call to rename Washington, Jackson parks

Work to remove confederate memorials continued Thursday from Tampa, Florida to a cemetery in Wisconsin. 

In Chicago, Mayor Emanuel is rejecting a call to rename two big South Side parks.

The mayor said the namesakes of those parks -- George Washington and Andrew Jackson -- made America better and deserve the honor, despite owning slaves.

President Trump was tweeting again in defense of Confederate statues: "Can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!"

One South Side pastor wants to banish the names of George Washington and Andrew Jackson from two big South Side parks, because they enslaved hundreds of African-Americans. Mayor Emanuel called for considering that they lived two centuries ago.

“If you look at their terms, Washington and President Jackson fought for this effort, as presidents, for a more perfect union,” Emanuel said. “Those will stay Washington and Jackson parks. Full stop.”

The current mood is also reviving a decades-old debate over a street in Grant Park named for Italian aviator Italo Balbo. He brought a fascist air squadron to Chicago in 1933, and a memorial column.

These dense evergreens and trees along the lakefront path across from Northerly Island make it difficult to find the Italo Balbo monument. It was presented, it says, by Benito Mussolini as a gift to Chicago in the eleventh year of the fascist era in Italy.

Italian-American Dominic DiFrisco wouldn't mind if Mussolini’s column were moved to a museum, but defends keeping Balbo's name on a short downtown street. Balbo strongly opposed the racial laws that targeted Jews and others.

“As a result of his and other people's effort, Italy and the Italian fascist army saved 90% of the Italian Jews during the holocaust. No other country in Europe could make that claim,” said DiFrisco.

DiFrisco said Ald. Ed Burke promised the city council would hold full hearings before any name change to Balbo Avenue.

The column that sits atop that fascist memorial may have been carved in 38 B.C., making it more than 2,100 years old. It was taken from an ancient port city near Rome.

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