At least 1,000 protesters gathered at Chicago’s Grant Park on Friday night. Rioters went to the park with the intentions to topple a Christopher Columbus statue. However, tensions flared between rioters and Chicago police who were guarding the monument. Rioters surrounded the Chicago police officers and attacked the cops with fireworks and by throwing projectiles.
Vandals used rope in an attempt to tear down the Columbus statue that was created by Italian sculptor Carlo Brioschi, and installed in 1933. The crowd screamed, “Columbus was a murderer! Columbus was a thief!” Graffiti was spray-painted on the base of the statue with anti-police messages.
Chicago police established a perimeter around the base of the monument. Rioters responded by throwing projectiles such as cans at law enforcement members. Cops used pepper spray in an attempt to subdue the mob.
Rioters launched fireworks at the police officers.
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CBS reporter Marissa Parra was covering the protests when a Chicago police officer swatted her phone out of her hand while recording. Another cop told him, “Don’t touch her, she’s media.”
Protesters attempted to prevent Parra from filming the demonstration, even taking her camera from her hands.
During the tense confrontation, at least 18 officers were injured, and some needed to be taken to the hospital for their injuries, according to Chicago police spokesman Thomas Ahern.
“Officers were there to not only protect the property, but they were to ensure the safety of the protestors and their First Amendment right to protest peacefully when the crowd turned on the police, literally ambushed the police with all their projectiles,” Ahern said.
Approximately 12 people were arrested and are facing charges such as battery to a police officer and mob action, according to the Chicago Tribune. About five civilians were hospitalized, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford stated.
A group of elected officials condemned Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to use law enforcement to protect the Christopher Columbus statue.
“We unequivocally condemn Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to send the Chicago police to beat, arrest, and terrorize the demonstrators and journalists gathered in Grant Park tonight,” the statement read.
The officials also wrote that they would “work to defund the Chicago Police Department immediately.”
The letter was signed by Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor, Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez, Ramirez-Rosa, State Rep. Representative Delia Ramirez, Democratic nominee LaKesia Collins, and State Sen. Robert Peters.