Eighteen Chicago police officers were injured and 12 people were arrested after a peaceful protest descended into chaos on Friday night in Grant Park.
Roughly 1,000 people assembled to advocate for racial equality, but those chants were drowned out as agitators began hurling full soda cans, bottles and fireworks at police.
Protesters launch fireworks and other items at Chicago police officers guarding Columbus statue in Grant Park pic.twitter.com/WCga8c47Ty
— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) July 18, 2020
Tensions escalated as protesters then climbed up the park’s Christopher Columbus statue and attempted to tie ropes around it in order to rip down the 87-year-old monument that was created by Milanese-born sculptor Carlo Brioschi.
A person has scaled the top of the statue. Someone is throwing a rope up at them. pic.twitter.com/ZqWfD18W9Q
— Alice Yin (@byaliceyin) July 18, 2020
Police deployed pepper spray and dispersed the crowd.
On Saturday morning, activists called for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to remove the statue.
Lightfoot responded with a statement on Saturday afternoon, writing that she supports peaceful protest but that “a portion of the protesters turned violent,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
The mayor also criticized police after protesters were injured, but what exactly should officers have done?
Lightfoot last month said she opposed the removal of Columbus statues in the city, but noted that her team has been developing a “comprehensive review of our public icons.”
When will it end?
This continued mob rule is indefensible, and extends far beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.
The wanton violence and lawless destruction must end.
Italian Sons and Daughters of America fully supports social change and political initiatives that work to achieve equality, but the work of bad actors is slowing the progress that has been made by peaceful protesters.
A tradition of pride and unity
Columbus Day has become synonymous with Italian Heritage Day, the time when we remember the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian Americans have made in the U.S.
The time-honored Columbus Day parades actually began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants attempted to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to lynchings, bigotry and prejudice throughout the country.
A movement forward
Columbus’s journey launched 500 years of immigration to America, attracting peoples from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families — this is the spirit we champion and are fighting to preserve, and this is what the Columbus statues stand for.
The Italian-American community has always supported the designation of an Indigenous Peoples Day as it is most rightly and most justly deserved. We respectfully suggest the day after Thanksgiving, or August 9th (the day the United Nations has designated as Indigenous Peoples Day throughout the world) to be considered as alternate options.
What we don’t support is the political agenda or criminal acts of those who want to rewrite history, and in the process, diminish our traditions by targeting the 15th century explorer.
A demand for peace and order
Please email Mayor Lightfoot, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribute, and demand an end to the destruction and lawlessness.