CHICAGO – Two statues of Christopher Columbus that were in Chicago’s parks were shot dead Friday morning at the direction of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a week after protesters attempting to topple one of the Italian explorer’s landmarks clashed 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 as the statue fell around 3 a.m. The second statue was removed around 5:30 a.m. 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 kidnappings were “in response to protests that had 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.”
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“This step concerns 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.”
The removal of the statues came after hundreds of protesters gathered near Lightfoot’s home Thursday night to ask for funding from the Chicago Police Department. The crowd cheered when an activist used a megaphone to inform them that Lightfoot would be removing the statue from Grant Park.
“Thanks for the statue, now fund the CPD,” protesters shouted after an organizer led the crowd in a celebratory song, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The plan to remove the statue from Grant Park was first reported Thursday night by the Chicago Tribune and the removal 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. .
“The fall of this statue is due to the efforts of black and native activists who know the true story of Columbus and what he stands for,” Stefan Cuevas-Caizaguano, a resident who attended the move, told the Chicago Sun-Times .
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.
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 public safety reasons.
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“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. city, “added the mayor’s office. in his statement.
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 lodged a complaint 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.