Chicago Mayor Removes Christopher Columbus Statue in the Dead of Night; More to Follow

Columbus statues taken down at 2 Chicago parks

Residents of Chicago awoke Friday morning to a piece of their city missing after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the removal of two statues of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park and Arrigo Park in Little Italy without prior notice.

According to ABC7 Chicago, the removal began early Friday morning after midnight when cranes surrounded by a police detail arrived in Grant Park. Around 3:15 AM crews carefully pulled down the monument where it was “loaded onto a truck and taken to an unknown location” without any incident. A couple dozen protesters were present, but remained out of the way.

Petition · Remove the Columbus Statue from Grant Park, Chicago ...
Grant Park Columbus Statue

Two hours later, around 5:30 AM, the second statue, this time located in Arrigo Park, was removed in a similar fashion. Both statues were covered in tarps and protected by barricades as the removal took place. Neither were reportedly damaged in the process, and the monument’s bases remain standing.

A Christopher Columbus Statue, by Moses Ezekiel in Rome, Italy ...
Arrigo Park Columbus Statue

The Columbus statue in Grant Park was erected in 1933 and dedicated as “a gift of Italian Americans living in Chicago and Cook County,” according to the Chicago Tribune. The Arrigo Park statue stood over Chicago in various locations since 1893 when it was revealed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

The formal removal by the city government of two statues honoring the Italian explorer credited with bringing Western civilization to the Americas comes after months of national protests where protesters took it upon themselves to tear down statues of figures ranging from Confederate officers to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Chicago Tribune says this action is a 180 from Lightfoot’s previous position, saying, the “abrupt move in the dark of night was an about-face for the mayor, who has opposed taking down statues of the Italian explorer on the grounds that it would be erasing history.”

Mayor Lightfoot released the following statement Friday morning after the job was completed:

The Christopher Columbus statues in Grant Park and Arrigo Park were temporarily removed by City and Park District crews under advisement from statue erectors and restoration professionals. Both statues were relocated to a storage facility in Chicago. As previously stated, the statues were relocated 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.

To ensure a safe process for residents to express their support or concerns over any of Chicago’s monuments, memorials, and murals, the City will be announcing a formal framework to assess statues in partnership with our local communities.

As the Mayor has stated previously, this is not about a single statue or mural, 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.

Chicago Mayor’s Office Statement about removing two Columbus Statues

In a tweet Mayor Lightfoot said the statues are being removed temporarily, signalling the two monuments may return after protest mellow out.

She also cites citizen’s safety as a reason for the sudden removal. A man in Virginia was seriously injured after a toppled statue fell on his head, leaving him hospitalized.

According to the Mayor’s Office, Columbus will not be the last statue to taken down. “To ensure a safe process for residents to express their support or concerns over any of Chicago’s monuments, memorials, and murals,” the statement reads, “the City will be announcing a formal framework to assess statues in partnership with our local communities.” Chicago will begin reassessing all monuments and statues in the city and consider possibly removing them if community outcry is loud enough.

The reaction from city aldermen is mixed, according to ABC7, “some aldermen say they were blindsided by the mayor’s decision, while others praised the action.”



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