Christopher Columbus statue abruptly removed from Grant Park


Maria Guerrero

The Christopher Columbus statue located in Grant Park is removed at early Friday morning.

In efforts to protect the safety of the public ahead of a weekend filled with protest, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the removal of the Christopher Columbus statues at Grant and Arrigo park. 

Friday morning at 3:00 a.m. police officers and protesters gathered in the South Loop at S. Columbus Drive and W. Roosevelt Road for the controversial removal of the Christopher Columbus statue that has caused rising tensions within the last week. 

“We took this step in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police, and to efforts by individuals to independently pull the Grant Park statue down in an extremely dangerous manner,” Lightfoot tweeted hours after the removal. 

On Thursday night, Lightfoot abruptly announced the removal of the statue which led about fifty spectators to the area before midnight. Semi trucks and cranes arrived at the scene around 1:30 a.m. after the fence surrounding the statue was brought down. 

Janie Pochel, lead advisor of Chi-Nations Youth Council who witnessed the scene from across the street, believes Lightfoot’s decision was made to distract the public. 

“Her decision to take it down is actually a virtue signal in trying to distract us from the lawsuit that was filed this morning by people against the Chicago Police brutality that happened last friday night,” Pochel said. 

Pochel refers to the confrontation between demonstrators and police officers last Friday when protesters tried to bring down the statue which led to violent clashes by both groups.

As co-founder of Chi-Nation and a former member of the Urban Natives of Chicago Youth Council, this event is significant to Pochel. 

“[Christopher Columbus] is a symbol of white supremacist,” Pochel said. “It was like a mixed reaction, like if that was such an easy decision why did it take a long time to do it? She [Lightfoot] knows its a day of action on Saturday, she knows that Freedom square is being open tomorrow, so she knows about these things, and she’s worried about that power and solidarity between the Indeginous and Black people is going to happen.” 

Fellow member of Chi-Nations youth council Frankie Peterson was one of the other spectators who stayed watching the statue be brought down. 

“A part of me is not really going to believe the statue gets taken down until it does, until I see it come down,” Peterson said. “I feel like the mayor has clearly said a lot of things and not followed through, so a part of me wanted to come down and see if it really happened. I don’t really think it is really happening until it’s down.”

At 10:46 a.m. on Friday, Lightfoot announced via Twitter the city removal of the Chritopher Columbus statues is temporary until “further notice”. 

The Mayor said the city will be soon announcing a “formal process” to assess the city’s murals, statues, and monuments across the city. 

“As I’ve said, this is not about a single statue or mural, but how we create a platform to channel our city’s dynamic civic energy to collaboratively, purposefully and peacefully reflect our values as Chicagoans and uplift the stories of all of our diverse city’s residents, particularly when it comes to the permanent memorialization of our shared heritage,” Lightfoot Tweeted