Chicago removed a Christopher Columbus statue from the city’s lakefront Grant Park before dawn Friday, a week after protesters tried to topple it.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said the city temporarily removed Columbus statues from both Grant Park and the Little Italy neighborhood a few miles away “until further notice.” It was not immediately clear where the statues were taken.
The removals come “in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently pull the Grant Park statue down in an extremely dangerous manner,” the statement said. “This step is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city’s symbols.”
On July 17, a clash between protesters and police at the Grant Park statue resulted in injuries of both demonstrators and officers.
Lightfoot, a Democrat, originally said she didn’t think the Grant Park statue should come down. “Look, I know that the issue of Columbus, Columbus Day is an issue of great discussion but I think that the way in which we educate our young people in particular about the history is to educate them about the full history,” Lightfoot said in June, according to NBC Chicago.
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But on Monday, the mayor said she would announce a plan to take inventory of monuments and other symbols in the city.
“In time, our team will determine there are no monuments to African Americans in this city,” Lightfoot said. “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,” the mayor said, according to NBC Chicago.
The statement on Friday said the mayor and city “will be announcing a formal process to assess each of the monuments, memorials, and murals across Chicago’s communities, and develop a framework for creating a public dialogue to determine how we elevate our city’s history and diversity.”
Both Columbus statues that were taken down Friday had been vandalized last month, NBC Chicago reported.
Like Confederate monuments around the country, statues of Columbus have been targeted in recent protests over the Italian navigator’s history of colonization, enslavement and violence toward native peoples in the Americas.
The statue removals come as President Donald Trump’s administration plans to dispatch federal law enforcement agents to the city in response to a recent swell in gun violence, a plan that has raised concerns among some Chicago community activists.
A collection of activist groups filed suit Thursday, seeking to block the federal agents from interfering in or policing protests, The Associated Press reported.
Trump on Wednesday evening called Lightfoot to confirm his administration’s plan to bring agents into the city to supplement violent crime investigations. In a statement, Lightfoot’s office offered caution, saying that “the mayor has made clear that if there is any deviation from what has been announced, we will pursue all available legal options to protect Chicagoans.”
Trump directed federal agents to Portland following an executive order to punish those who vandalize federal monuments or government property. In widespread, nightly demonstrations in the city, residents have protested the presence of federal agents.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities.
The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing had not been made public.
One city official said the city was aware of the plan but not any specifics. The Chicago Police Department had no immediate comment.
One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters.
It was unclear where all the agents would be coming from, though many were expected to be from agencies operating in the Chicago area. Questions remained about the chain of command they would fall under.
Federal agents being used to confront street protesters in Portland, Oregon, has raised alarm in many circles. Chicago, too, has dealt with protests that have led to injuries in recent days.
At an unrelated news conference Monday morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she has great concerns about the general possibility of President Donald Trump sending feds to Chicago based on what has happened in Portland.
If Trump wants to help, she said, he could boost federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives resources and fully fund prosecutors.
“We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully,” Lightfoot said.
Word of the Chicago plan comes as Trump last week made a vague announcement on how his administration intended to deal with crime in big U.S. cities like Chicago. The Republican president, who has been very critical of Chicago’s violence throughout his term, has been pushing a “law and order” message as he enters the final stretch of his reelection campaign against his presumptive Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump alluded to the same issue in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, calling Chicago and New York “stupidly run” cities and blaming the violent crime there on Lightfoot and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He repeated his pledge at the White House on Monday.
“I’m going to do something that I can tell you, because we’re not going to leave New York and Chicago and Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore, and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country, all run by liberal Democrats,” Trump said, talking about violence in those places, and then mentioning Portland.
“We’re going to have more federal law enforcement, that I can tell you,” he said. “In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job. They’ve been there three days and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time, no problem.”
Lightfoot pushed back last week on criticism from Trump’s press secretary, saying the Trump administration is trying to put the blame for crime on Democrats for political purposes to “score points with their base.”
Without offering specifics, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News over the weekend that Trump, Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf would roll out a plan this week about tamping down crime in various U.S. cities.
“Some of the unrest that we saw, even in the last month or so, but particularly last night and in the week leading up to it in Portland, is just not acceptable when you look at communities not being safe and not upholding the rule of law,” said Meadows. “So, Attorney General Barr is weighing in on that with Secretary Wolf and you’ll see something rolled out this week as we start to go in and make sure that the communities, whether it’s Chicago or Portland or Milwaukee or some place across the heartland of the country, we need to make sure their communities are safe.”
As news of the plans spread, leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued a strongly worded statement opposing the move.
“Make no mistake: Trump’s federal troops will not be a constructive force in Chicago,” Colleen Connell, executive director of the group, said in the statement. “As our colleagues have seen in Portland, Trump’s secret forces will terrorize communities, and create chaos. This is not law and order. This is an assault on the people of this country, the specific protections of protest and press in the First Amendment, and the Constitution’s assignment of policing to local authorities — not from a president acting like a despot.”
On Saturday, the president of the Chicago police’s largest union had sent Trump a letter asking for help from the federal government in putting a lid on crime in the city.
“I am certain you are aware of the chaos currently affecting our city on a regular basis now,” John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, wrote in a letter that was posted on the FOP’s Facebook page. “I am writing to formally ask you for help from the federal government. Mayor Lightfoot has proved to be a complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here.”
So far in 2020, Chicago has experienced one of its most violent years in recent memory, especially since late May with the fallout over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. Through July 12, homicides in Chicago were up 48% with 385, compared with 260 at the same time last year, official CPD statistics show. Shootings were also up by 46%.
During a 28-day period through July 12, 116 people were slain in Chicago, the statistics show. That’s up from 41 during the same period in 2019.
In addition to Portland, Homeland Security agents have already been sent to other cities, including Washington, D.C., and Seattle.
Oregon’s attorney general sued Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday, alleging in a complaint that federal agents in Portland, which has continued to see intense unrest since Floyd’s death on May 25, unjustifiably grabbed people from the city’s streets.
Tribune reporter David Heinzmann contributed.
Thousands of people gathered in peaceful demonstrations across Chicago Thursday, as protests and marches continued around the world following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
One of those joining the protests was Chicago native Kanye West, who arrived at a march on the city’s South Side in the evening.
Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new supports for small businesses Friday morning.
Here are the latest developments from across Chicago:
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new supports for small businesses alongside Jewel-Osco and community partners Friday morning.
The news conference, held at the Jewel-Osco at 6014 S. Cottage Grove Ave., can be viewed live in the video player above.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a violent arrest at Chicago’s Brickyard Mall that was captured on video, the Cook County State’s Attorney said Thursday.
“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has launched an investigation into possible criminal charges related to the incident at Brickyard Mall, ” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said at a news conference.
A family demands justice after a video shows them being pulled out of their car and pinned down but police at the Brickyard Mall in Chicago’s Belmont-Craigin neighborhood. NBC 5’s Chris Hush reports
“Our office is in communication with the attorney representing the family in the case, and also working with the FBI which has started their own investigation as well,” she continued, adding, “We’ll look at the evidence and the law and see where it takes us.”
Kanye West, appearing to try and blend in as best he could with the crowd, joined a march organized by Chicago Public Schools students and activist Ja’Mal Green on the city’s South Side.
A spokesman for the rapper told NBC News earlier in the day that he donated $2 million to the families and legal teams of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. West also set up a college savings fund for Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter Gianna.
On Thursday, artist and Chicago native Kanye West joined Chicago Public School students in the streets in one of the many marches across the city demanding that Chicago keeps police officers out of their schools. NBC 5’s Trina Orlando reports
The demonstration West joined was held in protest against CPS’ contract with the Chicago Police Department, organizers said. The protest began at the CPS office in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood on the South Side, followed by a march to CPD headquarters on Michigan Avenue.
Organizers of the event cite the Minneapolis Public Schools’ cancellation of its contract with local police after Floyd’s death as a reference for their demands, which include the cancellation of the CPD contract and increasing funding for school therapists and art-based extracurricular activities, as well as mandatory education on the American history of race taught by black educators.
A massive protest of around 5,000 people filled the streets on Chicago’s North Side on Thursday.
Chicago Public Schools students, teachers, parents and others marched from Lincoln Park High School to Whitney Young High School to “stand up against the militarized and overfunded Chicago Police Department” and call for the creation of a Civilian Police Accountability Council, among other measures to address racial injustice, organizers said.
Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability said it has received more than 250 complaints against officers since Friday, many involving responses during the city’s protests over the death of George Floyd.
As of Thursday afternoon, at least 258 complaints were reported to the city’s police watchdog agency, Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts said.
The complaints related to excessive force, denial of counsel and improper search and seizure, Roberts said.
“COPA formed a specialized team of investigative personnel and we began reviewing and responding to those complaints in real time beginning Saturday,” she said.
Rev. Michael Pfleger says approximately 200 people will walk from St. Sabina Church to 79th and Racine in order to “remind America what began all the unrest of the last week across this country and to tell America that she will not be allowed to continue this genocide of black men.”
Hundreds of healthcare providers from around Chicago held a silent demonstration in front of the old County Hospital to draw attention to the impact of structural racism and injustice on themselves and their patients.
Three members of the Illinois Legislature are asking for an “emergency legislative session” to address criminal justice reform and the issues at the center of demonstrations and unrest.
Reps. Kam Buckner, Curtis Tarver and Lamont Robinson sent House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Don Harmon a letter Wednesday requesting the session.
“There is a substantial amount of legislation that deals with the rebuilding of our communities and the pursuit of justice and equality that has been filed in the past and that is more important now than ever,” the letter reads.
“Our communities simply can not wait until the November veto session to address these systemic failures and the eroded trust of our neighborhoods when it comes to government, law enforcement and the criminal justice system, as well as economic development. We are in a state of emergency and need to act immediately,” the lawmakers continued.
Chicago restaurants might be able to reopen in June and residents may be allowed to sit outside enjoying music, theater and other outdoor activities, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday.
Lightfoot also told the Tribune she will eventually reopen the lakefront, though it’s too soon to say when.
The mayor made the comments during a wide-ranging interview with the Tribune during which she said the city will “be in a position to see some form of summer life start in June.”
Asked to elaborate, Lightfoot said, “I see a world in which restaurants can reopen cautiously in June. I see a world over the course of the summer where people can sit outside and enjoy music and theater and other outdoor activities. I think we’re going to come up with some very creative ways in which those things can happen.”
In making any decisions, Lightfoot said the city will be guided by the public health metrics her administration announced earlier this month “but we’re trending in the right direction.”
“I know people are anxious to get back outside and there’s a lot we’re learning around why being outside is much better than being cooped up inside … so I am pressing my team and the people that we’re in conversation with, the recovery task force, to really think expansively about opportunities to do that,” Lightfoot said.
Earlier this month, Lightfoot laid out a five-phase plan that layers additional standards for rates of infection and testing capacity on top of the state rules Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled earlier. As with Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan, Lightfoot’s framework sets a high bar for returning to normalcy.
Lightfoot can’t set looser standards than the statewide ones laid out by the governor, but she can tailor them to the city.
Under Lightfoot’s plan, the city also would need to be able to test 135,000 residents per month, with positive rates decreasing below 15% of those tested in the community and at least 14 days of declining rates of new cases, on average. Positive rates of below 30% would be needed in “congregate” settings such as nursing homes, shelters and jails, according to the Lightfoot plan.
Those standards are stricter than what Pritzker laid out in his statewide plan. The governor called for positive rates at or below 20% and an increase in the positive rate of no more than 10 percentage points over 14 days.
But one key simmering issue has been how the city and state will address restaurant reopenings in coming weeks. Pritzker’s rules for reopening have been criticized by Illinois Restaurant Association head Sam Toia as too strict, while Lightfoot has included Toia on a coronavirus recovery task force and repeatedly expressed concerns about mom and pop restaurants going out of business.
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Lightfoot likely will need some buy-in from Pritzker to make reopenings happen.
During the Tribune interview, Lightfoot also said the lakefront will eventually reopen, but couldn’t give a time frame.
“It’s not going to reopen probably as fast as people want it to, and it’s definitely going to reopen at least initially with a lot of restrictions around it, but the lakefront is the jewel of our city,” Lightfoot said.