Lightfoot says ‘people who came for a fight’ hijacked protest at Columbus statue in Grant Park

While insisting she supports peaceful protests, she said on Friday, “what we saw … is a group of vigilantes” who formed a “phalanx,” then began “pummeling police with projectiles Frozen water bottles, cans, other projectiles.”

SHARE Lightfoot says ‘people who came for a fight’ hijacked protest at Columbus statue in Grant Park
Hundreds of protesters surrounded the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday. They attempted to pull the statue down and many battled with Chicago Police.

Hundreds of protesters surrounded the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday. They attempted to pull the statue down and many battled with Chicago Police.

Alexander Gouletas/For the Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday accused a small group of “vigilantes — people who came for a fight” of “hijacking” an otherwise peaceful protest at the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park.

Lightfoot said people have a right to “peacefully protest” in this country and this city. It’s a “sacred right” enshrined in the First Amendment, she said.

She noted the focus of the Friday night march was supposed to be to “uplift the stories of indigenous people” in Chicago, an effort she fully supports.

Protesters marched on the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said protesters who came equipped with goggles and umbrellas to protect themselves were there for a fight, not for a peaceful demonstration.

Protesters marched on the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said protesters who came equipped with goggles and umbrellas to protect themselves were there for a fight, not for a peaceful demonstration.

Alexander Gouletas/For the Sun-Times

“Unfortunately, what we saw … is a group of vigilantes — people who came for a fight, not a peaceful protest. You’re gonna see video that shows these people before they got to the Columbus statue kneeling down, dressing in all black with goggles, forming a phalanx with umbrellas and with shields around them and then pummeling police with projectiles,” Lightfoot said.

“Frozen water bottles, cans, other projectiles. There were a number of police officers that were injured as a result of that. That’s not peaceful protest. That’s anarchy. And we are going to put that down. We are actively investigating. And we will bring those people to justice.”

Noting that parents are “allowing their teenaged children to come down to these protests,” Lightfoot said: “We can’t have a circumstance where a small subset of that try to take over and hijack the peaceful protest, then turn it into a fight with the police. That’s not acceptable.”

The mayor said she is “not happy about some of the things that I saw with people who were injured” in alleged confrontations with the police. She also is “not happy” with reports of police interfering with reporters doing their jobs. Lightfoot encouraged anyone who believes they were mistreated by police to call 311 or report the alleged abuse to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Many protesters have reported being injured by Chicago police during a protest Friday at the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. More than 20 complaints have been filed with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Many protesters have reported being injured by Chicago police during a protest Friday at the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. More than 20 complaints have been filed with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Alexander Gouletas/For the Sun-Times

The mayor noted COPA is actively investigating even as she accused President Donald Trump of attempting to “foment conflict” on a “daily basis” in ways that are “absolutely unhelpful and dangerous.”

On Monday evening, a group of about 50 protesters gathered at the Columbus statue and called for its removal. The statue was covered in a plastic tarp and surrounded by a chain link fence.

The protesters ridiculed and nearly bumped up against a group of about two dozen police officers who stood on the outside of the fence in riot gear. After about an hour, demonstrators made the short walk to the intersection of Roosevelt and Columbus and blocked traffic.

“It is time to remove this statue of white supremacy,” activistJa’Mal Green said Monday while addressing reporters before the demonstration.

Green didn’t comment on violence directed at police Friday evening during a protest at the statue — violence which was highlighted Monday during a news conference held by Police Supt. David Brown — and instead pointed out other instances of police brutality.

“When has the CPD ever done a press conference that showed the video of one of their police officers brutalizing anyone?” Green asked.

Last month, Lightfoot said Chicago statues of Columbus,vandalized repeatedly since the death of George Floyd, should not be torn down, but rather used to confront the nation’s history and trigger a “reckoning” that’s long-overdue.

Yet after the Friday night stand-off, she said her team has been developing a plan for a “comprehensive review of our public icons.”

If that sounds like a change, it shouldn’t Lightfoot said.

She’s simply recognizing what’s missing.

Protesters surround the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday, July 17, 2020.

Protesters surround the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday.

Alexander Gouletas/For the Sun-Times

“There are no monuments to African Americans in this city. There are no monuments to women. There are no monuments that reflect the contributions of people in the city of Chicago who contributed to the greatness of this city and we need to correct that problem,” the mayor said.

Later this week, Lightfoot said she plans to announce a process to begin to examine the monument issue.

“It’s not just about a single statue. It’s about how we want to reflect our values as a city to make sure that everyone is reflected in our history and particularly in our permanent memorialization of our history,” the mayor said.

“We have not historically done that. We need to do that. And this is the moment to address it at long last.”

Police surround the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday night after driving away protesters who had tried to take down the statue. During the confrontation, some protesters threw objects at the police, while many protesters reported being beaten, with more than 20 official complaints filed.

Police stand by the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park on Friday night after driving away protesters who had tried to take down the statue. During the confrontation, some protesters threw objects at the police, while many protesters reported being beaten, with more than 20 official complaints filed.

Sun-Times files

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