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

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN AND MITCH DUDEK Staff Re­porters

Mayor Lori Light­foot on Mon­day ac­cused a small group of “vig­i­lantes — peo­ple who came for a fight” of “hi­jack­ing” an oth­er­wise peace­ful protest Fri­day night 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 march was sup­posed to be to “up­lift the sto­ries of in­dige­nous peo­ple” in Chicago, an ef­fort she fully sup­ports.

“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.”

Say­ing 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.

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,” ac­tivist Ja’Mal

Green said Mon­day while ad­dress­ing re­porters be­fore the demon­stra­tion.

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 standoff, 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.

“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.

Chicago po­lice pro­tect the statue of Christo­pher Colum­bus in Grant Park on Fri­day as pro­test­ers crowd around and pro­jec­tiles fly through the air.

Many pro­test­ers have re­ported be­ing in­jured by Chicago po­lice dur­ing Fri­day’s con­fronta­tion in Grant Park. More than 20 com­plaints have been filed with the Civil­ian Of­fice of Po­lice Ac­count­abil­ity.

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