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Chicago Statues Of Christopher Columbus, George Washington Hit With Spray Paint

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Vandals took aim at statues in Chicago parks this weekend – at least three were defaced in the last couple of days.

As CBS 2's Marissa Parra reported, paint was still visible on the Christopher Columbus statue in Arrigo Park, at 801 S. Loomis St. on the Near West Side. A Chicago Police squad car was standing by.

Little Italy residents helped clean the paint up.

Some wondered – if the movement is about emphasizing that Black Lives Matter, why come after historical figures like Columbus and George Washington? The answer from petitions is that protesters say now is the time to address all traces of white supremacy and the leaders who once played a role.

In Washington Park, the monument to the park's namesake was the latest in the city to get painted over Sunday morning.

Police were called to the scene at 7:13 a.m., after the base of the statue was marked in red paint with the words "slave owner."

A similar fate was seen farther north near the Museum Campus in Grant Park, where another Christopher Columbus statue was also spray-painted, in one spot with red paint that was left dripping like blood over the inscription that credits Columbus as the "discoverer of America." The damage to the base of that statue was discovered at 4:54 p.m. Saturday.

It was yet another reminder of the controversial legacy of historical figures such as Columbus.

"It was a symbol of pride to us Italians," said Carol Vaniglia, who is in favor of Columbus statues.

But Dr. Lionel Kimble, associate professor of Black History at Chicago State University, said, "Christopher Columbus is very problematic and we need to have a talk about the genocide that comes with him."

Within the past few days, as statues of controversial figures around the country have tumbled, petitions to take down Columbus statues across Chicago have surfaced online.

One petition, with more than 1,000 signatures, said Columbus "paved the way for the expansion of slavery" in America, and it's now "time to stop putting people like him on literal pedestals."

The petition against the Italian Columbus did not sit well with residents of Little Italy, who took matters into their own hands – standing guard over the Columbus statue in Arrigo Park after it was also painted Friday night.

"What would be nice is if these ghost activists would come out and identify themselves so we could have a conversation," said Rachelle Cirrintano.

Local residents stood before the statue in hopes of warding off any repeat offenders, and in support of a man who in this country has drawn both support and ire centuries after his death.

"We're being disrespected as an Italian community," Vaniglia said. "It's history, good or bad."

But Samson Widerman, who wants the Columbus statues taken down, said: "There's a tremendous amount of Italians worth looking up to. Christopher Columbus is not one of them."

As far as the Columbus statue in Grant Park, police arrested and charged a woman, Kaitlyn O'Keefe, with misdemeanor criminal defacement of property. But police said felony charges were denied by the Cook County State's Attorney's office.

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