Two statues of Christopher Columbus were removed from public parks in Chicago Friday on the orders of Mayor Lori Lightfoot amid ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in the city. Lightfoot said she ordered the statues removed after protests at one of the since removed statues turned violent on July 17.
City crews were sent to Grant Park and Arrigo Park around 1 a.m. and the statues were down by 3 a.m.
“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,” Lightfoot said in a press release. “In addition, our public safety resources must be concentrated where they are most needed throughout the city, and particularly in our South and West Side communities.”
Lightfoot made the point of saying the statues’ removal was temporary, and officials would try to find fitting locations to place the statues.
The decision to remove the statues is a reversal for Lightfoot, who had previously opposed removing the statues of Columbus, calling it an erasure of history. She said the city officials would now examine the various statues and memorials across Chicago and determine how best to address them going forward.
“As the Mayor has stated previously, this is not about a single statue or mural, but how we create a platform to channel our city’s dynamic civic energy to collaboratively, purposefully and peacefully reflect our values as Chicagoans and uplift the stories of all of our diverse city’s residents, particularly when it comes to the permanent memorialization of our shared heritage,” Lightfoot’s office said in a press release.
Her decision comes a week after protests at the Grant Park statue of Columbus turned chaotic, with several people injured and protesters being arrested before things calmed down. This drew Lightfoot’s ire on Monday. She decried the “anarchy” that unfolded during the protest.
“Frozen water bottles, cans, other projectiles. There were a number of police officers that were injured as a result of that,” Lightfoot said Monday. “That’s not peaceful protest. That’s anarchy. We are going to put that down. We’re actively investigating and we will bring those people to justice.”
Lightfoot, however, has said she is opposed to federal agents intervening in the street protests and asked the Trump administration to send investigators, instead, to deal with the city’s violence problems.