CHICAGO – Two statues of Christopher Columbus that stood in Chicago parks have been taken down at the direction of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Their removal came a week after protesters trying to topple one of the monuments to the Italian explorer clashed with police.
Crews used a large crane early Friday to remove the statue from its pedestal in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park as a small crowd gathered to watch. The bronze statue of Columbus by Carlo Brioschi had been installed at the park in 1933.
A second statue of Columbus was removed from Arrigo Park in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. The statue by Moses Eziekiel had originally stood in the Italian Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and was moved to the park in 1966.
The Democratic mayor’s office said both were “temporarily removed” at the mayor’s direction “in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police.”
Lightfoot’s office said that the city would soon announce a formal process to assess all of the city’s monuments, memorials and murals.
“As the Mayor has stated previously, this is not about a single statue or mural,” the statement said, “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.”
Native Americans and other groups have long called for the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus, who they say was responsible for killing and exploiting native peoples in the Americas. Statues in Boston, Richmond, Virginia and St. Paul, Minnesota, have been taken down in recent weeks.
In Peoria, the Peoria Park District board voted last month to launch a process to consider the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue in one of its parks, located at the head of a street named Columbia Terrace.
But the removal of the Chicago Columbus statues was criticized by a Chicago Italian-American organization.
Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans president Sergio Giangrande wrote that the removal, especially of the Arrigo Park statue, struck at a symbol of the resilience of Chicago’s Italian American community.
“The statue is part of our community, our triumphs, our celebrations and our tragedies,” wrote Giangrande in an op-ed piece published in the Chicago Tribune, and cited on the group’s Facebook page. “Now, there is a hole in the center of the beating heart of Italian Americans across Chicago.”
(Additional reporting by Jim Meadows).