Two statues of Christopher Columbus that were in Chicago’s parks were dismantled Friday morning under the direction of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a week after protesters attempting to topple one of the Italian explorer’s monuments collided with the police.
The teams used a large crane to remove the statue in Grant Park in downtown Chicago from its pedestal. A small crowd cheered and passing cars honked their horns as the statue fell around 3 a.m. The second statue was removed around 5:30 a.m. Friday from Arrigo Park in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.
In a statement released after the statues were removed, the Democratic mayor’s office said they were “temporarily removed … until further notice.” He said the cuts were “in response to protests that have become dangerous for protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently bring down the Grant Park statue in an extremely dangerous manner.”
“This step is about an effort to protect public safety and preserve a safe space for inclusive and democratic public dialogue on the symbols of our city,” the mayor’s office said in the statement, which said the statues had been removed. after “consultation with various stakeholders.”
Plans to remove the statue from Grant Park were first reported Thursday evening by the Chicago Tribune and the withdrawal followed hours of vocal confrontations between opponents and supporters of the statue. On July 17, protesters clashed with police, who used batons to beat people and made arrests after claiming protesters targeted them with fireworks, stones and other items. .
“I’m glad the statue has been taken down,” Hillary Aarons, 27, of Bridgeport, said Friday morning in front of the monument. “It is symbolic of the systematic oppression of so many people of color in our country and it does not need to be a permanent symbol of what our city is.”
The statues in Grant Park and Arrigo Park were vandalized last month. Statues of Columbus have also been toppled or vandalized in other U.S. cities as protesters called for the removal of statues of Columbus, claiming he is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
A longtime Chicago resident and a resident of Little Italy for 15 years, Lawrence Segers said the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from Arrigo Park was “a major mistake.” On Friday, on the promenade in Arrigo Park where the statue of Christopher Columbus once stood, red, green and white ribbons depicting the Italian flag hung from the fence surrounding the now empty pedestal.
Segers added that removing the Christopher Columbus statue from Arrigo Park is different from removing it from Grant Park. “This is their neighborhood,” he said of South Loomis Street Park. “It was about their ethnicity; it was their heritage; they were proud of Christopher Columbus. Segers believes this action will cost the mayor politically.
Pasquale Gianni of the Joint Italian-American Civic Committee said the mayor told him before their removal that the two statues would be moved and temporarily housed elsewhere for reasons of public safety.
“The Italian-American community feels betrayed. The mayor’s office gives way to a noisy and destructive minority. This is not how the Democratic process is supposed to work, ”he told WLS-TV.
Lightfoot and the city planned to announce a process “to assess each of the monuments, memorials and murals in Chicago communities, and develop a framework to create a public dialogue to determine how we elevate the history and diversity of our community. city, ”added the mayor’s office. in his statement.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 38th arrondissement, is Italian-American and strongly opposed the removal of the statues of Christopher Columbus. He issued a statement supporting the mayor’s decision to temporarily remove the two statues, but reaffirmed his position that the statues “continue to be prominently displayed due to their historical significance to the legacy of Christopher Columbus and the symbol of the many contributions Italians make to our city and country. “
In an interview with WBEZ, Sposato said that a “Back The Blue” rally was scheduled for Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Columbus Statue in Grant Park and that there were also rumors against the police.
“I guess they’re expecting a real shit show out there, and they thought maybe, maybe [removing the statue] going to calm some things down, ”he said. “We can’t have our police there every night, every weekend. “
Sposato said he didn’t know when the statues could be put back in place, but guessed it wouldn’t be this summer because “things are too hot and crazy right now.”
“We know what happened last Friday,” added Sposato. “Do we want to see someone get killed because of this?” No, but I don’t want to give in to these, you know, the national terrorists either. “
The evictions come as part of a plan by President Donald Trump to send federal law enforcement officers to the city to respond to gun violence, raising fears the increase could hamper capacity residents to organize events. A cluster of activist groups filed a lawsuit Thursday, seeking to prevent federal agents fighting violent crime from interfering or controlling protests.
Officials in the state of Oregon had pursued similar demands following the arrival of federal law enforcement due to nearly two months of protests in Portland since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The reaction of other Chicago aldermen to the mayor’s decision overnight has been swift and varied on social media and in published statements.
Aldermen aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America issued a statement this morning applauding the removal of the statues.
“We thank the activists and organizers who put their bodies on the line to make this happen, and we pledge to continue working to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day and dismantle white supremacy in all its forms,” indicates the press release.
It was signed by Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th arrondissement, Ald. Rossanna Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd arrondissement, Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, 25th arrondissement, Ald. Daniel La Spata, 1st parish, and Ald. Jeanette Taylor, 20th arrondissement.
Rodrinez Sanchez wrote a simple “Goodbye Columbus” after posting several videos of workers dismantling the statue overnight. The Spata also applauded the movement: “To quote Queen Isabella, ‘Goodbye Columbus!’ “
But Ray Lopez, 15th arrondissement, a frequent critic of the mayor, decried the action in the middle of the night.
“What happened to Chicago? We have a mayor forced into submission by anarchy and mob rule? No more public process, official speech or public debate. The lesson learned is that if you want some action from Lightfoot, show up en masse to her and she will give in every time.
Ald. Andre Vasquez, 40th Ward, shared a WBEZ story about the mass shooting at the South Side funeral on Tuesday night with the legend : “Compare the number of officers here to those protecting a statue of Columbus and you will see why removing it is the right decision.”
WBEZ reporters Becky Vevea and Carrie Shepherd contributed.