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Chicago Christopher Columbus statues in Grant Park, Little Italy removed by city

Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the removal overnight

By Will Jones and the ABC7 Digital Team

Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park and Little Italy have been removed Friday morning.

The Grant Park statue started to come down at around 3:15 a.m. After that, it didn’t take long to remove it completely.

A crane had been stationed near the statue for hours near Columbus and Roosevelt and then it was carefully removed, it was loaded onto a truck and taken to an unknown location.

The Christopher Columbus statue had been covered in tarp and protected by a ring of protective fencing. A police presence remains there Friday morning.

Later Friday morning around 5:30 a.m. the Columbus statue in Arrigo Park in Little Italy was also taken down.

In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office released a statement saying, “This action was taken after consultation with various stakeholders. It comes 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. 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. 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’s office said they will be announcing a formal process to evaluate each monument, memorial and mural across Chicago.

“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,” the statement continued.

The Grant Park statue was the focus of a protest that turned into a violent clash between Chicago police and protesters last Friday, after protesters tried to tear it down.

People who have called for the statue’s removal point to the displacement and mistreatment of Native Americans that followed the colonization of North America

Some Italian Americans in Chicago say Columbus is a symbol of their assimilation and achievement in American culture.

Pasquale Gianni of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans responded to news of the possible removal, saying, “The Italian American community feels betrayed. The Mayor’s Office is giving into a vocal and destructive minority. This is not how the Democratic process is supposed to work.”

Gianni said the mayor told him both the Columbus statue on Taylor Street in Little Italy will also be removed and temporarily housed for public safety reasons.

A small crowd gathered around the Columbus statue on Taylor Street Thursday night as well, largely Italian American residents upset at the news.

“The feeling is that we’re very hurt, that’s the feeling,” said Sergio Giangrande, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. “Columbus is a symbol of hope we’ve all celebrated for years. Maybe we all forgot why we celebrate Christopher Columbus, and to take somebody who’s a symbol of hope from us, we’re not OK with that.”

“We’re also not OK with police officers getting hurt, so if the mayor feels that this will prevent police officers from being hurt, then this is our contribution,” Giangrande added. “We don’t want any more lives hurt, but we cannot forget that we as Italian Americans, this is our symbol of our hope. And we cannot be a target. We’ve also been discriminated against, and that’s one of the reasons we look at and we celebrate that we’ve overcome that.”

Earlier Thursday night hundreds of people protested near Lightfoot’s house in Logan Square, calling for a reallocation of city money. They want the police budget cut and the funding rerouted into social services and community programs.

At least 12 people were arrested and 49 officers were injured, police said. Police said projectiles and fireworks were thrown at officers protecting the statue.

Protesters said police were unnecessarily violent with them.

“My tooth was knocked out,” said Miracle Boyd. “I have lip abrasions in my mouth. My teeth hurt really bad.”

The 18-year-old activist had just finished addressing the crowd protesting the Columbus statue when she says she started recording an argument she was having with an officer. That’s when Boyd said the cop took a swing in her direction with his left arm.

“A police officer came up to me and he smacked my phone out of my hand and it hit me in the mouth and my tooth got knocked out,” she said.

Several videos of the incident surfaced on social media, as did pictures of a bloodied Boyd, who’s a member of the youth group GoodKids MadCity. The images show that some of her teeth had been knocked out during the exchange.

Boyd said officers took her phone.

The police released video showing one person dumping out a backpack of what appeared to be frozen water bottles, which were then thrown at officers. Demonstrators also threw fireworks, and police said one sergeant suffered a broken eye socket from the shrapnel.

Police said the PVC pipe used to hold the Black Lives Matters banners had been sharpened, was taken out and then used to jab at officers.

This article originally appeared in ABC7 News.

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