CHICAGO (AP) — A statue of Christopher Columbus in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park was taken down early Friday, a week after protesters trying to topple the monument to the Italian explorer clashed with police.
Crews used a large crane to remove the statue from its pedestal as a small crowd gathered to watch. The crowd cheered and passing cars honked as the statue came down about 3 a.m. Several work trucks were seen in the area, but it was unclear where the statue would be taken.
The Associated Press sent an email Friday seeking comment from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.
Plans to remove the statue were first reported Thursday night by the Chicago Tribune and the removal followed hours of vocal confrontations between opponents and supporters of the statue. And on July 17, protesters had clashed with police, who used batons to beat people and made arrests after they say protesters targeted them with fireworks, rocks and other items.
“This statue coming down is because of the effort of Black and Indigenous activists who know the true history of Columbus and what he represents,” Stefan Cuevas-Caizaguano, a resident watching the removal, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The removal also comes amid a plan by President Donald Trump to dispatch federal law enforcement agents to the city to respond to gun violence, prompting worries that the surge will inhibit residents’ ability to hold demonstrations. A collection of activist groups had filed suit Thursday, seeking to block federal agents to combat violent crime from interfering in or policing protests.
State officials in Oregon had sued for similar requests following the arrival of federal law enforcement due to nearly two months of protests in Portland since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Protesters across the county have called for the removal of statues of Columbus, saying that he is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas. The Columbus statue in Chicago’s Grant Park and another in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood were vandalized last month, and statues of Columbus have also been toppled or vandalized in other U.S. cities.