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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot takes down Christopher Columbus statues in the dead of night

Chicago Mayor
Lori Lightfoot (D) ordered statues of Christopher Columbus to be removed in the middle of the night following clashes between protesters and police officers guarding the monuments last week.

Crews arrived at Grant Park around 1 a.m. on Friday and started removing the Christopher Columbus statue that was created by Italian sculptor Carlo Brioschi and installed in 1933. By 3 a.m., the statue of the Italian explorer had been taken down.

The Windy City’s Italian-American community raised funds and
donated the Columbus statue to Chicago for the city’s second world’s fair that began in 1933 and was titled “Century of Progress Exposition.”

By Friday morning, crews had also dismantled a Columbus statue that had been standing in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Mayor Lightfoot’s office released a
statement on the removal of statues.

The city of Chicago — at Mayor Lightfoot’s direction — has temporarily removed the Christopher Columbus statues in Grant Park and Arrigo Park until further notice. 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.

The removal of the Columbus statues is a complete about-face for Lightfoot, who said last month that the monuments should not be torn down.

“Look, I know that the issue of Columbus, Columbus Day is an issue of great discussion but I think that the way in which we educate our young people in particular about the history is to educate them about the full history,”
Lightfoot said during a news conference in June when asked if Columbus statues should be removed.

“We’re not always gonna agree on every issue and I know that Columbus and his legacy is a flashpoint for many,” Lightfoot added. “But I think again, we need to use this moment as an opportunity to find our common ground as people. That’s what we should be doing in Chicago is to unify not divide.”

The announcement to remove the statues came hours after hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Lightfoot’s home in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Protesters celebrated the news of the Columbus statues being torn down.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd Ward, wrote on
Twitter: “It’s coming down because of the activism that has led to this moment. Indigenous, Black and Brown people have been fighting for so long to see this happen. It’s also a balancing act, the Mayor just accepted Federal Agents from Trump.”

Sergio Giangrande, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, released a
statement about the removal of the statue:

There is nothing more important than the safety of all Chicagoans and our Chicago Police Officers who work so hard to protect our rights and communities. Our community is hurt- we are not okay with these statues being taken down, but we stand by the City’s decision to do so in the interest of public safety. Mayor Lightfoot has told us that this is not over. We look forward to being able to have the conversation about something that means so much to Italian Americans at a time free of violence.

Last Friday, at least 1,000 protesters gathered at Chicago’s Grant Park and attempted to tear down the Columbus statue. Some rioters launched fireworks and threw projectiles at the Chicago police who were guarding the monument.

Last month, a
Christopher Columbus statue in Boston was beheaded. Also in June, a group of residents from Philadelphia gathered together to protect their local Columbus sculpture.

Since the George Floyd protests erupted around the country in late May, historic statues have been torn down. Statues that have been taken down or damaged, include famed abolitionist
Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Francis Scott Key, and an 18th-century Spanish priest.

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Rioters shoot fireworks at Chicago police officers guarding Christopher Columbus statue, cops hospitalized

At least 1,000 protesters gathered at Chicago’s Grant Park on Friday night. Rioters went to the park with the intentions to topple a Christopher Columbus statue. However, tensions flared between rioters and Chicago police who were guarding the monument. Rioters surrounded the Chicago police officers and attacked the cops with fireworks and by throwing projectiles.

Vandals used rope in an attempt to tear down the Columbus statue that was created by Italian sculptor Carlo Brioschi, and installed in 1933. The crowd screamed, “Columbus was a murderer! Columbus was a thief!” Graffiti was spray-painted on the base of the statue with anti-police messages.

Chicago police established a perimeter around the base of the monument. Rioters responded by throwing projectiles such as cans at law enforcement members. Cops used pepper spray in an attempt to subdue the mob.

Rioters launched fireworks at the police officers.

CBS reporter Marissa Parra was covering the protests when a Chicago police officer swatted her phone out of her hand while recording. Another cop told him, “Don’t touch her, she’s media.”

Protesters attempted to prevent Parra from filming the demonstration, even taking her camera from her hands.

During the tense confrontation, at least 18 officers were injured, and some needed to be taken to the hospital for their injuries, according to Chicago police spokesman Thomas Ahern.

“Officers were there to not only protect the property, but they were to ensure the safety of the protestors and their First Amendment right to protest peacefully when the crowd turned on the police, literally ambushed the police with all their projectiles,” Ahern said.

Approximately 12 people were arrested and are facing charges such as battery to a police officer and mob action, according to the Chicago Tribune. About five civilians were hospitalized, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford stated.

A group of elected officials condemned Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to use law enforcement to protect the Christopher Columbus statue.

“We unequivocally condemn Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to send the Chicago police to beat, arrest, and terrorize the demonstrators and journalists gathered in Grant Park tonight,” the statement read.

The officials also wrote that they would “work to defund the Chicago Police Department immediately.”

The letter was signed by Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor, Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez, Ramirez-Rosa, State Rep. Representative Delia Ramirez, Democratic nominee LaKesia Collins, and State Sen. Robert Peters.

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Black Lives Matter statue erected in the UK gets taken down within 24 hours

A statue dedicated to a British Black Lives Matter activist was installed on a plinth in the U.K. that was once occupied by a statue of a wealthy merchant trader who was involved in the slave trade. However, within 24 hours, the Black Lives Matter sculpture was taken down.

During a protest on June 7 in the city of Bristol in southwest England, vandals tore down a statue of Edward Colston. He was a 17th-century member of Parliament, philanthropist, and merchant involved in the transatlantic slave trade. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, rioters toppled the 125-year-old statue of Colston and dumped it into the harbor.

On Wednesday, a new statue was raised on the pedestal where Colston’s monument once stood. The new statue was a tribute to Jen Reid, a Bristol-based Black Lives Matter activist. The life-size black resin and steel sculpture of the BLM protester was created by British artist Marc Quinn, who titled the artwork “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020.”

On Thursday, Reid’s statue was removed by Bristol City Council contractors within 24 hours of being erected.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees explained his decision to remove the statue.

“I prefer to say we’re not taking down the statue of a Black Lives Matter protester, we are taking down the work of a London-based artist who erected it without permission and without any conversation with the city,” Rees told Sky News.

Rees previously called the Colston statue “an affront,” but added that he did not approve of how the statue was torn down.

“As an elected politician, obviously I cannot condone the damage and I am very concerned about the implications of a mass gathering on the possibility of a second COVID wave,” Rees said.

“I can’t and won’t pretend the statue of a slave trader in a city I was born and grew up in wasn’t an affront to me and people like me,” said Rees, who is black. “People in Bristol who don’t want that statue in the middle of the city came together and it is my job to unite, hear those voices and hold those truths together for people for who that statue is a personal affront.”

“The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol,” Rees tweeted.

“This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathize with its removal but are dismayed at how it happened and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know and therefore themselves,” Rees added. “We need change. In leading that change we have to find a pace that brings people with us.”

Rees revealed that a commission of historians would help decide on what the new monument will be, and the replacement will tell “the full story of Bristol so that the city is much more informed and is in a better position to collectively decide who it wants to honor and where.”

The Bristol City Council said the statue of Reid “will be held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection.”

Quinn said that if the Black Lives Matter statue is sold, the proceeds will be donated to two charities promoting Black history that were chosen by Reid.

The Colston statue was fished out of the harbor. City officials say it will be exhibited at a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter protest.