Friday, March 26, 2021

Chicago monuments under assault, Part 17: Haymarket Memorial

My late father had a great love of historical epic films and for this country. So naturally when Patton, which was the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture in 1969, was released he took my brothers and I to see it at the Bismarck Theater on Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. 

We loved the movie. My brothers and I still do.

Afterwards my dad made a point of driving a mile west to Haymarket Square to see the Haymarket Memorial Statue, which had just been bombed by the Weather Underground, a far-left terrorist organization that counted Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn as members. Depending on who you talk to, Ayers and Dohrn were either friends or acquaintences of Barack and Michelle Obama. On the day he formally began his campaign for state Senate seat, Obama visited the home of Ayers and Dohrn.

My father loathed the 1960s-early 1970s left-wing radicals.

All we saw at Haymarket Square that day was a vacant pedestal.

Click here to see many photos of the bronze statue, courtesy of The monument portrays a 19th-century Chicago policeman with his right arm raised in a warning stance. 

The Haymarket Memorial is one of the public artworks that is "under review" by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Chicago Monument Project

A few months after our 1969 drive past the empty pedestal the statue was back on Randolph--then it was bombed again. "The body of the statue badly bent a nearby railing as it fell before settling on the expressway embankment," recalls, "and one of the legs landed two hundred feet away." The Weather Underground claimed reponsibility for the second bombing too. Before that attack my dad again drove us through Haymarket Square--this time the statue was there.

Why the anger about this monument? It's a messy story.

On May 4, 1886, socialists and anarchists gathered for a rally at Chicago's Haymarket Square, which is just north of Greektown on the city's Near West Side. Someone threw a bomb that killed seven Chicago cops. I believe this was the deadliest day for the Chicago Police Department. Four others were killed by the blast

The press and most Chicagoans were understandably aghast. Investigators zeroed in on the anarchists who attended the rally, as well as some of the speakers. The bomber was never identified but eight men were arrested and tried on conspiracy charges. Again--depending on who you speak with--the trial was unfair or a complete travesty of justice. Four of the guilty were hanged, Governor Richard J. Oglesby commuted two of the executions to life sentences. One of the condemned committed suicide in prison.

In 1893 another governor, John Peter Altgeld, pardoned the two men Oglesby saved from the gallows as well as a third man who hadn't been sentenced to death. Three years later those pardons were used against Altgeld during his unsucessful run for a second term. 

The bombing occurred on May 4 but fairly quickly that event was used as a rallying cry for the left that made May Day, May 1, a labor holiday worldwide. 

Back to the statue.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, the legendary Boss of Chicago, was a law-and-order pol and the bombings of the Haymarket Memorial infuriated him. So he placed the statue under a 24-hour police guard. Yes, the statue was safe but this was clearly not a wise use of law enforcement resources. Like now, the early 1970s were a violent time. In 1972 the statue was moved indoors, first to Chicago Police headquarters and then to the Chicago Police Training Academy. Since 2007 it has stood outside the new Chicago Police headquarters.

The monument was designed by Frank Batchelder and sculpted by John Gelert.

Leftists have long memories. I have a few socialist friends--really, I do--and when the subject of the Haymarket Affair came up one day during an otherwise non-political conversation, one of my lefty pals recited the whole incident rapidly with all of the details, focusing on the four executed men and the four others imprisoned. It was as if he was recalling the plot of a movie that he had just seen.

But what of the murdered cops? Not a lot is known about them but unless proven otherwise, none of them were 19th-century versions of Derek Chauvin, who soon will be tried for murder in regards to the death of George Floyd. Do those seven Chicago police officers deserve a memorial? I say they do. 

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass calls the Chicago Monument Project "Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Woke Committee on Problematic Statuary." In my opinion he's almost always right on issues, for better or for worse, which means that the Haymarket Memorial is possibly the most endangered of the 41 monuments that the committee says "warrant attention." Probably only the three Christopher Columbus statues, now in storage, face more daunting survival odds.

Over on Randolph Street near where the policeman statue once stood you'll find a new Haymarket Memorial, which is a tribute to the rally attendees and speakers. If you enjoy ugly art--its a socialist realism sculpture, appropriately enough--then this piece is for you. 

Ironically, both of the Illinois governors linked to the Haymarket Affair, Altgeld and Oglesby, have statues in Lincoln Park. Neither are on Lightfoot's naughty list.

To comment on the monuments "under review" please visit the Chicago Monuments Project's "Feedback page." Please be polite but firm in your comments. 

Please Tweet this post. When you do so use the #ChicagoMonuments hashtag.

Earlier posts

Related posts of mine at Da Tech Guy


Levois said...

One monument to take a pic of before it's gone forever.

Marathon Pundit said...

Get the pic, yes. But let's hope this one and the others stay.