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Protesters Call Removal Of Columbus Statues In Chicago A Slap In The Face To Italian-Americans

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A protest rally was held Sunday following Mayor Lori Lightfoot's decision to remove two statues of Christopher Columbus.

Dozens of protesters held a rally Sunday in Arrigo Park at Loomis and Polk streets on the Near West Side. They called the removal of the Columbus statue there, and the one in Grant Park near the Museum Campus, a slap in the face to Italian-Americans.

"This is our history – so much history, so many memories, so many weddings, graduations, and other family photos with that massive statue in the background," Ron Onesti said at the protest. "But now it's gone, taken in the darkness of night, while so many fought to keep it here where it belonged."

The Columbus statues in Grant and Arrigo parks were removed late Thursday night. the mayor's office said the statues were "temporarily removed ... until further notice."

"This action was taken after consultation with various stakeholders. It comes 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. This step is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city's symbols," the mayor's office said in a statement Friday. "Over the coming days, Mayor Lightfoot and the City will be announcing a formal process to assess each of the monuments, memorials, and murals across Chicago's communities, and develop a framework for creating a public dialogue to determine how we elevate our city's history and diversity."

A week earlier, a group of protesters clashed with police officers at the Christopher Columbus statue in Chicago's Grant Park. Some of them tried to drag the statue down to the ground and even turned on the officers, attacking at least 18 of them during the demonstration.

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian-Americans issued a statement saying they stand by the city's decision to remove the statutes temporarily in the interest of public safety, but they hope to speak with Mayor Lightfoot in the near future about a long-term plan for those monuments.


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