CHICAGO (CBS) -- A group of protesters clashed with police officers at the Christopher Columbus statue in Chicago's Grant Park Friday night. Some of them tried to tear down the statue and even turned on the officers, attacking at least 18 of them during the demonstration.
Some officers were treated at the scene while others were hospitalized. Four protesters were also hurt in the confrontation with police.
Police say 14 people were arrested and could face charges including battery of a police officer and mob action.
The demonstration started at Buckingham Fountain as a protest to defund the police before moving south into Grant Park. The situation escalated very quickly as more people showed up. Chicago police officers provided security, but once the crowd got to Grant Park things took a violent turn.
Some protesters defaced and tried to tear down the Christopher Columbus statue, which had been covered in a tarp for weeks.
At some point officers were also attacked. The Chicago Police Department says some protesters were throwing fireworks, rocks, frozen bottles and other objects at officers in riot gear.
Officers were left with no choice but to use pepper spray to clear out the crowd and move them away from the park.
Some people in the crowd told CBS 2 that they saw police mishandling a woman. One man said he was trying to record the situation when an officer took his phone and threw it to the ground.
CPD released the following statement regarding the incident.
At approximately 4:20 pm on July 17, 2020, a large group gathered at 301 S. Columbus for a protest. The group moved southbound into Grant Park with Chicago Police Officers providing security and protecting their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. As the group approached the Christopher Columbus statue, some members of the crowd turned on the police and used the protest to attack officers with fireworks, rocks, frozen bottles, and other objects.
At this time, there are approximately 12 individuals who were arrested and who could potentially face charges that may include Battery to a Police Officer, Mob Action, and/or other felonies. Approximately 18 officers were injured as a result. Some of the officers were treated on the scene by paramedics while others were transported to area hospitals for further treatment.
Crews worked overnight to remove graffiti from the base of the statue and were installing a fence early Saturday morning to prevent a repeat of what happened Friday night.
Saturday morning members of Black Lives Matter Chicago called for defunding of the Chicago Police Department, officers out of Chicago Public Schools and charges against all protesters dropped.
"With incredible rage and brutality, they pepper sprayed until the air was thick with tear gas. They beat young people. We're talking about students, people just out of high school or going into college. Some people have had their teeth broken. I saw people's head gushing with blood," one member said. "These are young people in Chicago who understand that that statue is a symbol of white supremacy. That statue is a symbol of a history we need to acknowledge but divorce ourself from."
Mayor Lori Lightfoot released the following statement Saturday afternoon:
Hundreds took to the streets yesterday to express their First Amendment right to protest. I unequivocally support and will always fight for the rights of individuals to peacefully protest on any issue. The history and stories of the lives of Indigenous People here in Chicago need to be lifted up and celebrated. There is a dialogue that must be had to honestly confront the deeply ingrained history of racism and discrimination that has subjected Black, Indigenous and other communities of color in our city and our nation for too long.
For several weeks, my team has been working to develop a plan to pursue that public conversation, and to engage in a comprehensive review of our public icons to identify which should change, and where we need new monuments and icons to be erected to ensure the full, robust history of our city is told. The details of that plan are forthcoming, but please know that we hear and take seriously these questions.
Unfortunately, last night, a portion of the protesters turned violent. A number of individuals came with frozen water bottles, rocks, bottles, cans and other gear to throw at officers. People in the crowd also threw fireworks and other incendiary devices at police, causing injury in several cases. These violent acts are unacceptable and put everyone at risk.
There have also been several reports of excessive force by the police. These are also unacceptable. I have spoken to the director of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and she has assured me that COPA stands ready to address these complaints and will ensure that each of these is dealt with and investigated. We will not spare any resources to do so. If you believe you have been mistreated by the police, then I urge you to file a complaint through COPA or by dialing 311.
This is a difficult moment in our history. I know Chicagoans are frustrated and impatient for change. It is my sincere hope that we can strike the right balance to ensure people can rightfully express themselves and their First Amendment rights, but to do so in a way that does not put anyone's physical safety at risk. That would be consistent with the long history of peaceful protest in our city
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