CHICAGO — Protesters demanding the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park be torn down took their message to the streets Monday, shutting down a South Loop intersection for four hours.
The action, organized by GoodKids MadCity and activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green, came on the heels of a protest in support of Black and Indigenous people Friday night that led to clashes with Chicago Police as demonstrators tried to topple the statue.
After a 6 p.m. press conference in front of the statue Monday, the group rushed into the intersection of Columbus Drive and Roosevelt Road and were later joined by another protest that had earlier marched from Federal Plaza to Trump Tower, denouncing President Donald Trump’s plan to bring federal agents to Chicago.
Chicago Police officers blocked traffic heading to the intersection and held a tight line around the group before easing back as day turned to night, protesters brought in pizza and staged a sit in. Around a dozen officers remained at the entrance to the statue, with others waiting nearby.
On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is taking inventory of its monuments and suggested new ones will be erected to honor women and Black leaders. She did not comment on the Columbus statue specifically, though in late June she said she opposed removing the statues because they can teach people about the history of the United States.
Green said the Columbus statue was put up to honor him, not remember him, and suggested the city rename Columbus Drive “Black Lives Matter Boulevard.”
“Tell the real history in the books, tell the history in the museums, but don’t put up acts of white supremacy in our communities,” he said. “If they really want to tell the real history, he’d have a whip in his hand.”
GoodKids MadCity held a press conference with 18-year-old activist Miracle Boyd, calling on the firing of a police officer seen on video striking Boyd and knocking out her tooth.
At the evening protest, activist Taylore Norwood, co-founder of GoodKids MadCity, said Columbus was a “racist” who “didn’t do anything for our communities.” The continued presence of the statue dishonors Boyd and other Black and Indigenous people of color.
“Lightfoot needs to take the statue down,” she said. “[Boyd] was brutalized for it and out of respect for her, it should be taken down. That is a very simple ask the Black and Brown youth of this city and their allies are asking.”
Norwood also called on Lightfoot to publicly apologize for the behavior of the officer in the video.
“We couldn’t even get an apology,” she said. “She hasn’t even spoken to say that she herself is not proud of the actions taken by her police force. She hasn’t said anything and silence is compliance.”
At a Monday press conference, Lightfoot reiterated that anyone who feels they were mistreated by Chicago Police officers should file a complaint with COPA, but did not address the incident with Boyd.
The protest that worked its way through the loop to Trump Tower came on the same day multiple outlets reported the Trump administration was planning to send 150-175 federal authorities to Chicago amid weeks of unrest after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Lightfoot wrote a letter to Trump Monday denouncing the decision, and at an earlier press conference said she had spoken with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. News reports from Portland show unidentified federal agents sweeping protesters off the street in unmarked vehicles.
“Any other form of militarized assistance within our borders that would not be within our control or within the direct command of the Chicago Police Department would spell disaster,” she said.
Taylor, who led a protest outside Lightfoot’s house on Saturday evening, said they’ll return to the statue and the Mayor’s house until the statue comes down.
“More die-ins, more sit-ins, we might even camp-in, we’ll be up at Lori Lightfoot’s house,” Taylor said. “She will be hearing us and if she refuses to, then we’ll make her whole neighborhood hear us because she’s gonna have to hear them.”
Read all of Block Club’s coverage related to the Columbus statue protests here.
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