Skip to contents

Video Shows Coordinated ‘Ambush’ On Police At Columbus Statue With ‘Vigilantes’ Throwing Bottles, Fireworks, Sharpened PVC, Officials Say

Forty-nine officers were injured, including a sergeant who had a broken eye socket, Supt. David Brown said.

  • Credibility:

This story has been updated with a response from GoodKids MadCity.

CHICAGO — “Vigilantes” planned an “ambush” of police officers, leading to violence among activists and police at what was supposed to be a peaceful protest Friday in Grant Park, officials said Monday.

The city’s top cop claimed Monday it “looks like” organizers of the protest knew there was planned violence — but organizers said that was untrue. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said “vigilantes” hijacked the peaceful protest.

The Chicago Police Department released a video they said shows people at the protest dressing in black, forming a phalanx with umbrellas and then throwing items at officers. Police officials said the attack was a planned “ambush” of officers that left 49 injured, including one who had his eye socket broken and another who had his kneecap broken by thrown objects.

Protesters were injured in the clash, too, including an 18-year-old activist who had her tooth knocked out when an officer hit her.

RELATED: 18-Year-Old Activist Had Teeth Knocked Out By Police At Columbus Statue Protest, Officials Say

The protest was organized to empower Indigenous people in Chicago and to call for the removal of a controversial Christopher Columbus statue at the park. But there were violent clashes between protesters and police that left activists bloodied and police injured.

Watch the video:

Police released video clips from throughout the protest, saying it showed the protest turn into a “riot” as people hid behind umbrellas and banners so they could change into black clothing. They put up umbrellas, formed a wall and marched on officers who were positioned around the Columbus statue, police said.

The people in black clothing then used PVC pipe that had been “sharpened to a point” and jabbed at officers, while some dumped out items, including frozen cans and bottles, so others could grab them and throw them at officers, police said.

RELATED: Protesters Try To Tear Down Columbus Statue In Chicago As Clashes Between Police, Activists Turn Violent

Some people threw explosive devices at officers; one damaged an officer’s eye, and he might require surgery, police said. In all, 18 officers had to go to a hospital after Friday’s clash.

“What you see here was obviously an ambush on the police officers,” police said during the Monday morning press conference.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
An injured police officer is carried away as police and protesters clash near a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park during a protest in support of Black and Indigenous people on July 17, 2020.

Supt. David Brown said the peaceful protest had been “hijacked by organized mobs.” Twelve people were arrested for mob action, battery to a police officer and criminal damage to property, he said.

Brown, asked if he thought organizers of the protest knew a group was planning to incite violence there, said, “God, I hope not, but it sure looks like it.”

But Taylore Norwood, an organizer with GoodKids MadCity, said the anti-violence group was not involved in violent acts against police and didn’t know of the planned violence ahead of time.

“We had no idea that was happening. People walked right into a red action and were totally unprepared for the violence that occurred,” Norwood said. “If police officers are being taught to deescalate situations, why didn’t it happen Friday? We expect the city and the mayor to value people over property.”

After Friday, police will now “assume that there may be mobs working with peaceful protesters to inflict violence” at all protests, Brown said.

“We’ll have to change the way we deploy our resources, how we’re trained, the expectations of First Amendment protests have to include” this level of violence, Brown said.

Lightfoot, speaking during a groundbreaking for a Far South Side restaurant, said the video showed “vigilantes, people who came for a fight.”

“That’s not peaceful protest. That’s anarchy,” Lightfoot said. “And we are going to put that down.

“… We can’t have a circumstance where a small subset of that try to take over and hijack the peaceful protest and then turn it into a fight with the police.”

Lightfoot said Chicago has a long history of peaceful protest, and people should follow that tradition and try to build bridges with others.

“I know these are difficult, intense times, but we need to be better to each other,” Lightfoot said. “We need to remember that we neighbors and we need to remember that our children are watching.”

Lightfoot also criticized police, saying she was “not happy” with some of the things she saw as protesters were injured and reporters faced interference from officers.

Lightfoot encouraged people who experienced police misconduct to file an investigation with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. People can do that by calling 312-745-3598.

But Brown praised officers’ response, saying the vast majority of officers “have been professional and have exhibited great restraint and have upheld their oath … .”

During the clash, police beat and used pepper spray on protesters, and one officer knocked out 18-year-old activist Miracle Boyd’s tooth.

During GoodKids MadCity’s press conference, Boyd’s attorney, Sheila Bedi, said Boyd was a peaceful protester exercising her First Amendment rights when an officer slapped her so hard her tooth came out.

Boyd cried during the press conference, saying she’s received death threats from across the country and she’s being made out to be a criminal.

“No matter what I said [to that officer] … I did not deserve to be attacked,” Boyd said.

Block Club Chicago photographer Colin Boyle was also assaulted by an officer while following police orders to leave the scene and holding up his press badge.

CBS Chicago journalist Marissa Parra said an officer used a baton to swat her phone out of her hand while she was reporting on the scene. WBEZ journalist Linda Lutton said her two daughters were pepper sprayed and had their bike, roller skates and bags taken by officers.

A day later, hundreds of protesters attempted to gather outside Lightfoot’s home, but police barricaded the street. The group took over the intersection to sing, dance and chant before marching through Logan Square.

Though Saturday’s protest did not see the same level of violence, police injured several protesters when they drove onto a sidewalk and hit them with an unmarked car, activists said. The Sun-Times reports that COPA is investigating the incident.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.