Chicago Mayor Orders Late-Night Removal of Two Christopher Columbus Statues

Activists stand at South Columbus Drive and East Roosevelt Road near the Christopher Columbus statue in Chicago on July 20, 2020. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Activists stand at South Columbus Drive and East Roosevelt Road near the Christopher Columbus statue in Chicago on July 20, 2020. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
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July 24, 2020 10:45 a.m.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) directed that two statues of Christopher Columbus be removed from the city parks during the early hours of Friday morning.

The Chicago Tribune was the first to report the removal of one of the statues from Grant Park, noting that removal crews arrived around 1 a.m., and a few dozen people cheered as the statue of the controversial figure was brought down from its pedestal a few hours later.

A second Columbus statue was removed shortly after from Arrigo Park.

The move came hours after hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Lightfoot’s home in the Logan Square neighborhood, The Tribune said.

Clashes between protesters and police in the Illinois city have intensified in recent days. Just a week earlier, demonstrators had vandalized and tried to topple the monument before those efforts were thwarted by law enforcement who used tear gas and batons to disperse protesters who police said threatened them with fireworks, rocks and other objects.

In a statement issued after the statues were brought down that was obtained by the Associated Press, Lightfoot’s office said they were being “temporarily removed … until further notice.” The statement also said the statues had come down “in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently pull the Grant Park statue down in an extremely dangerous manner.”

According to a local TV station, WGN9, on that occasion 12 people were arrested for mob action, and 20 complaints against police officers were filed with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

The station also noted that the Fraternal Order of Police: Chicago Lodge No. 7 had posted a seething statement of its own on Facebook in response to the mayor’s decision.

Rumor has it, the mayor in all her infinite wisdom is going to take down the Columbus Statue tonight! Once again, bowing down to the lawlessness of these anarchists!

Posted by Fraternal Order of Police: Chicago Lodge No. 7 on Thursday, July 23, 2020

The mayor’s office statement also announced plans by Lightfoot and city officials “to assess each of the monuments, memorials, and murals across Chicago’s communities, and develop a framework for creating a public dialogue to determine how we elevate our city’s history and diversity.”

The Tribune previously reported that the Chicago mayor opposed taking down the statues, citing concerns that it would erase the history of the Italian explorer. She has also previously rejected calls to rename the Columbus Day holiday.

The move follows an announcement Thursday by President Donal Trump, who told Fox News host Sean Hannity in a phone interview that he intended to deploy up to 75,000 federal agents to American cities to fight crime and protect federal property and buildings, which he said have been targeted by demonstrators.

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