Chicago Columbus statue protest: Elected officials, activists condemn CPD response to Grant Park Rally; COPA investigates

Police say at least 12 people were arrested and 18 officers were injured

ByEvelyn Holmes, Michelle Gallardo, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Chicago officials, activists condemn CPD response to Columbus statue protest
COPA is investigating the "most egregious complaints" of police misconduct during the protests near the Columbus statue Friday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago officials and activists are condemning the actions of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the police department after a rally escalated Friday night.

Chicago police clashed with protesters near the large statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park . At least 12 people were arrested and 18 officers were injured, according to CPD.

Members of the crowd and supporters are now expressing outrage at the way they were treated, including a teenage activist who was injured during the clash.

"My tooth was knocked out," said Miracle Boyd. "I have lip abrasions in my mouth. My teeth hurt really bad."

The 18-year-old activist had just finished addressing the crowd protesting the Columbus statue when she says she started recording an argument she was having with an officer. That's when Boyd said the cop took a swing in her direction with his left arm.

"A police officer came up to me and he smacked my phone out of my hand and it hit me in the mouth and my tooth got knocked out," she said.

Several videos of the incident surfaced on social media, as did pictures of a bloodied Boyd, who's a member of the youth group GoodKids MadCity. The images show that some of her teeth had been knocked out during the exchange.

Boyd said officers took her phone.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor, of the 20th Ward, knows Miracle Boyd.

"What do I say to Miracle from this point on? Keep going. Keep fighting. I don't know what to say to her. We cannot keep funding people who kill us," Taylor said.

In response to the incident, a spokesperson for Mayor Lori Lightfoot emailed a lengthy statement.

It reads in part, "I unequivocally support and will always fight for the rights of individuals to peacefully protest on any issue... Unfortunately, last night, a portion of the protesters turned violent. 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, and (COPA) will ensure that each of these is dealt with and investigated."

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) announced Saturday that it has opened preliminary investigations into "the most egregious complaints filed" regarding Chicago police misconduct during the protests in Grant Park.

COPA also said it will review widespread video shared on social media. The agency plans to provide an update Saturday evening.

Damanyati Wallace, who was also at the rally, said she helped get Boyd medical attention after police pepper-sprayed protesters trying to tear down the nearly 90-year-old statue.

"We weren't harming anyone, regardless of what they were doing," Wallace said. "If they were popping fireworks, smoke bombs, throwing water bottles, that's a statue. That's an inanimate object. There was no real violence."

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown issued a statement on Twitter Saturday.

"We deeply respect an individual's right to peacefully protest and we will do everything we can to protect that right. But, we will not stand by, and in fact we are obligated to act, while City or private property is being damaged or while violent acts are being committed," Brown wrote.

He added, "We do not want to engage in violent clashes with protesters, but when the law is being broken, our oath demands that we act to uphold the law. The rule of law has always been, and remains today the essence of policing and the foundation of our democracy."

The clash with protesters has sparked outrage among elected officials across the city and state.

"I think the Chicago Police Department hit a new low," said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez.

State Sen. Robert Peters said, "The city felt a need to protect this statue instead of its people."

The ACLU also denounced the police department's actions, calling on the mayor to provide a full public accounting.

"We'd like to see an explanation of why the police thought, they decided to use chemicals and batons, and reports of pulling people off their bicycles to police this event," said Colleen Connell, of the ACLU of Illinois.

Some members of the Chicago City Council commented on the protest on Twitter.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said, "Black and Indigenous Chicagoans and people from all across the city came together to do what our so-called progressive mayor refused and failed to do."

Ald. Daniel La Spata said, "Chicago may be the only 'liberal' city willing to brutalize Black and brown youth to protect a symbol of white supremacy."

On Saturday night, protesters gathered near Mayor Lori Lightfoot's home to call for the removal of police from Chicago Public Schools.

Protesters gathered near Mayor Lori Lightfoot's home Saturday to call for the removal of police from Chicago Public Schools.

Earlier that morning, several aldermen and Illinois officials gathered to condemn CPD's response to the protest.

Chicago officials and activists condemned CPD's response to a protest Friday night near a Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park.

"Social media and press reports from Friday night confirmed that SWAT buses, pepper spray, and press suppression resulted in severe injuries to young protesters," a statement said.

United Working Families members Alderman Carlos Rosa, Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, state Rep. Delia Ramirez, state Sen. Robert Peters, and Democratic Nominee Lakesia Collins planned to attend. Supportive elected officials who are unable to attend include Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, Ald. Daniel La Spata, and Ald. Jeanette Taylor, the statement said.

Participating organizations include Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Chi-Nations Youth Council, the Black Abolitionist Network and United Working Families.

The Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago also responded to the protest, saying in part "This was the work of evil minded people. They have been fueled by an educational system too lax in its reliance on a poor curriculum re the education of the legacy of Columbus, and abetted by the majority of the media who refuse to question the baseless revisionist history of the Columbus saga."

When asked for a comment from the mayor, a spokesman for Lightfoot's office pointed to a Twitter thread.

In it, Lightfoot said "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."

She went on to say her team has been developing a plan to engage in a comprehensive review of the city's public icons to identify what should change and where new monuments and icons should be erected. She said more details are coming.

Some protesters came with frozen water bottles, rocks, bottles, cans and other gear to throw at officers, Lightfoot said.

"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," Lightfoot said.

She also noted there have been several reports of police using excessive force.

"These are also unacceptable," she said. "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 & 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."

Anyone whom the police has mistreated should file a complaint through the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability or by dialing 311, Lightfoot said.

Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, criticized actions by police in response to the Friday night protest.

"I am especially upset by an officer's attack on Miracle Boyd, a recent Chicago Public Schools graduate and a leader with GoodKids MadCity, an organization that seeks to combat gun violence and support communities that have long suffered from divestment," Preckwinkle wrote on Facebook. "Ms. Boyd was badly injured by an officer - an inexcusable action for someone sworn to maintain public safety. This must be investigated and properly handled."

Preckwinkle also expressed support for increased oversight of the Chicago Police Department. She also called for reducing "our reliance on policing in exchange for greater economic development, community investment and needed social services that will address the underlying causes of poverty, crime and violence."