Police Stop Rioters From Tearing Down Christopher Columbus Statue in Chicago

July 18, 2020 Updated: July 18, 2020

Police arrested several people after dispersing a crowd that sought to topple the statue of Christopher Columbus in downtown Chicago late Friday.

The Chicago Police Department said in a statement that officers took 12 people into custody following a large protest at Grant Park, where the statue is located.

Those who were arrested “could potentially face charges that may include battery to a police officer, mob action, and/or other felonies,” the department said.

A large group of demonstrators gathered around 4:20 p.m. local time at 301 S. Columbus for a protest, and they later moved south, eventually ending up in Grant Park and around the statue in the evening.

“As the group approached the Christopher Columbus statue, some members of the crowd turned on the police and used the protest to attack officers with fireworks, rocks, frozen bottles, and other objects,” the Chicago Police Department said.

According to multiple reports and video footage, people threw bottles, full soda cans, bricks, and fireworks at the officers who were standing around the statue to try to protect it. Officers continued trying to push back a crowd that was seeking to deface and tear down the statue. In one video, an officer could be seen striking a member of the crowd with his baton.

Christopher Columbus
Workers cover a statue of Christopher Columbus before the start of a Juneteenth march in Chicago, Illinois, on June 19, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The rioters proceeded to tie up the statue with ropes and tried to topple it. Chicago police called in in SWAT officers as rioters tried to tear down the statue, according to local outlet WGN9.

Police officers also deployed pepper spray on those trying to tear down the statue and eventually dispersed the crowd from the area, ABC7 Chicago reported.

The clash between police and protesters occurred around 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., according to the Chicago Tribune, which noted that protesters were dispersed by 8:30 p.m. The outlet also said that at least 1,000 protesters had surrounded the statue.

The statue was not toppled although graffiti could be seen at the base of the monument. The city had covered the statue with plastic for several weeks, at least since June.

The Chicago Fire Department told NBC Chicago that at least four police officers were taken to a hospital for injuries.

Protesters at the rally were calling to defund the Chicago Police Department. Black Lives Matter Chicago, Chi-Nations Youth Council, Black Youth Project 100, and other groups were the organizers behind the event, according to NBC Chicago.

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

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