CHICAGO (UPI) — Activists and elected officials in Chicago have called for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park following Friday-night confrontations that led to at least 12 arrests, as well as injuries to protesters and officers.
Officials have also condemned the police’s tactics in responding to the protest, citing among others an incident where an officer hit Miracle Boyd, an 18-year-old woman and knocked her tooth out.
At a news conference Saturday, Boyd said she was recording an argument with an office when he slapped her phone out of her hand, knocking out her tooth.
“I have the right to record. I have the right to assembly. I have the right to the press,” Boyd said. “You can’t deny me my rights.”
“That statue has to be taken down,” said Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who serves as alderman of Chicago’s 35th Ward, at a Saturday-morning news conference in front of the statue. “When you have a statue in a public square, you’re saying that is someone who should be celebrated.”
In a series of tweets posted Saturday, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said she supports peaceful protest but that “a portion of the protesters turned violent.”
Lightfoot had previously said she opposed the removal of Columbus statues in the city but on Saturday announced that her team has been developing a plan for a “comprehensive review of our public icons.”
“It is my sincere hope that we can strike the right balance to ensure people can rightfully express themselves & their First Amendment rights, but do so in a way that does not put anyone’s physical safety at risk. That would be consistent with our long history of peaceful protest,” Lightfoot wrote.
The city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability said Saturday that it has received “numerous complaints” of excessive force by police, and has opened “preliminary investigations into the most egregious” ones.
Chicago police said 18 officers were injured Friday, and some were taken to area hospitals by paramedics for further treatment.
At least 1,000 people gathered around the statue Friday after a rally for racial justice, and some attempted to topple the statue.
At a news conference on Saturday, activists demanded the Chicago Police Department be immediately defunded.
“We have a right to freedom of assembly. We have a right to protest. What happened yesterday was a travesty. That’s what happens in dictatorships,” Aislinn Pulley with Black Lives Matter Chicago said, saying she saw people beaten by police and officers using tear gas.
Reporting by Christen McCurdy
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