CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she “fully” expects Grant Park’s controversial Christopher Columbus statue to return.
The statue was removed in July 2020 amid high-profile debates over monuments that honor problematic figures — and after protesters tried to tear it down, leading to a violent clash with police officers. It has been in storage, its fate uncertain, while a city-created committee reviews Chicago’s monuments.
But during an unrelated news conference Monday, Lightfoot was asked about the slow progress of the committee — and she said she expects to see the monument make a return.
“No. 1, what’s important is to make sure that we’re really respectful of, I think, legacy projects that people across the city care deeply about, and particularly those that have been the subject of controversy,” Lightfoot said. “I’ll say, the Columbus statue in Grant Park, in particular, making sure that if that statue comes back — which I fully expect that it will — that we have a safety plan in place.”
The mayor said officials must look at the issues the monuments committee has flagged, and she must engage with communities and be “mindful” of how people will react to decisions about the monuments.
Lightfoot said she will not do anything that puts police officers in harm’s way, saying she’s “haunted” by the clash between police and protesters when people tried to pull down the Columbus statue.
Lightfoot has previously voiced support for keeping problematic monuments like the Columbus statue in place. She’s also defended the city’s celebration of Columbus Day while others have moved to instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.
It’s not clear when or if the statue will make a return.
In October 2020, Lightfoot created the Monuments Project advisory committee to review all the monuments and memorials in the city and make recommendations about what should be done with them. The group flagged 40 statues — including three Columbus statues — that could be problematic in February 2021.
But no action has been taken with Grant Park’s Columbus statue or other controversial memorials. In July 2021, a year after the Columbus statue was removed, the city said the committee’s members wanted to do more events with the public that summer.
The group’s last public event was Sept. 26, according to its website. It has yet to release its recommendations for what should happen to existing monuments.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: