Authorities in Chicago removed a statue of Christopher Columbus early Friday, July 24, as part of the government’s plan to restore order between protesters and police as violence and unrest between the two factions continue to plague the city.
The order was made by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in an attempt to douse protest tension in the country’s third-largest city. The Chicago Tribune reported that at least 1,000 people gathered in Grant Park last week and tried to topple down the controversial statue.
While they failed to topple the statue, the confrontation saw demonstrators clash with the police: people threw fireworks and cans, while law enforcement retaliated by striking the crowd with their batons. The protest ended with 12 arrests, said the news outlet.
Workers operated with night on their side and removed the statue using a crane. Fox News, who shared videos and still images of the operations via Twitter, showed the statue being draped in white cloth as it was dislodged from its pedestal.
“This step is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city’s symbols,” a statement from the mayor’s office said, according to the Chicago Tribune in a separate article.
The Columbus statue in Grant Park, along with the one in Arrigo, was only “temporarily removed.” Whether both statues will be returned anytime soon or where they were taken after they were removed wasn’t immediately known.
The removal, according to The Independent, was part of a “White House plan” to counteract ongoing protests as well as shooting incidents in the city. This also came amid the announcement of President Donald Trump that he will be sending “hundreds” of federal agents in Chicago and “other cities” including Albuquerque.
The Week reported Trump cited “murderers and violent criminals” who are breaking a wide range of federal laws as the reason why he plans to deploy the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA and ATF agents in Chicago. Mayor Lightfoot on the other hand said that Operation Legend won’t be a “Portland-style deployment” and will only help local enforcement.