Protesters surrounded the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park Friday night, spray-painted it and tried to pull it down.
A large group gathered about 4:20 p.m. at Buckingham Fountain, 301 S. Columbus Dr., for a protest and moved south into Grant Park, Chicago police said.
The group approached the Christopher Columbus statue and some “used the protest to attack officers with fireworks, rocks, frozen bottles, and other objects,” police said.
Images shared on Twitter showed protesters pulling on ropes attached to the statue.
Police had cleared protesters from the area around the statue by 8:15 p.m.
At least 12 people were arrested and 18 officers were injured, with some being treated at the scene and others transported to hospitals, police said.
Amika Tendaji, an organizer for the protest, described it as a solidarity march for indigenous people and Black people. Artists tagged the statue with slogans including “Decolonize Chicago” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Tendaji also said three organizers had been arrested while retrieving a cellphone left behind at the statue.
Tendaji decried the officers’ use of force while protecting the statue and said organizers will continue to demonstrate.
“I think the people of Chicago and the world have proven that they are over police brutalizing people,” she said. “They’re over police murder, they’re over police terrorism, so the people are going to keep fighting.”
Statues of Columbus, like those of other historical figures, such as Confederate soldiers, have come under assault this year as protests about racism grew in the wake of the death of George Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
Columbus’ role in history has become controversial. Long revered by Italian Americans, he also is criticized for his treatment of the indigenous people he found when he arrived on the North American continent.
Last month, the statue in Grant Park, and another Columbus statue, in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood, were both vandalized.
“He’s a signal of the beginning of genocide,” Heather Miller, executive director of the American Indian Center on Chicago’s North Side, said then.
After that statue in Little Italy was vandalized, some neighbors began to stand guard. Joseph Esposito, who heads up the Little Italy Chicago Neighborhood Association, said then that the statue in that neighborhood is a source of pride.