Activists, Officials Condemn Police Violence After Columbus Statue Protest Turns Violent

By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A day after police fought with protesters trying to topple the statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park, activists and some elected officials defended their actions and condemned police.

The protesters threw bottles, cans and fireworks and rocks at police defending the statue and were met with batons and pepper spray. 

Several protesters and reporters were later hit by police officers as they yelled at people to leave the premise, according to social media reports. One 18-year-old activist from the group Good Kids Mad City was beaten up by officers and had her teeth knocked out. The incident was caught on video. 

Police said so far, 12 individuals have been arrested and 18 officers were injured. 

Aislinn Tulley, with Black Lives Matter, blamed police for the violence.

"Last night was an example of how they operate with impunity," Tulley said. "They expect to receive no repercussions for the brutality they infliected on citizens and ordinary people of Chicago, including young people."

Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rose defended the activists who tried to pull the statue down and said it needs to go. 

He said the history of Columbus is a disgrace and the city should not have a statue in his honor, which has been a heated debate in Chicago. 

"When you have a statue in a place of honor, you are saying that is someone that should be celebrated," the alderman said. "Christopher Columbus was a genocidal maniac." 

Mayor Lightfoot, who has said she does not support taking down the statue, took to Twitter to condemn the violence that erupted from both sides Friday night. 

She said she does not tolerate violence to police or by police to protesters, but said she has spoken to the director of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to ensure every complaint filed will be investigated. 

This is a difficult moment in our history. I know Chicagoans are frustrated and impatient for change," Lightfoot tweeted. "It is my sincere hope that we can strike the right balance to ensure people can rightfully express themselves & their First Amendment rights, but do so in a way that does not put anyone’s physical safety at risk. That would be consistent with our long history of peaceful protest."

There is a dialogue that must be had to honestly confront the deeply ingrained history of racism and discrimination that has subjected Black, Indigenous and other communities of color in our city and our nation for too long.

— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) July 18, 2020

She also said her office has plans to engage in conversations surrounding public statues and where to build new ones to "ensure our full, robust history is told."

The attempt to pull down the statue of Columbus comes as demonstrators across the country have targeted monuments to historical figures now considered racist. The movement gained traction following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.