Mayor cites 'public safety concerns' in decision to remove Columbus statues in Grant Park, Little Italy

"We received some information that day that raised some very serious public safety concerns. I didn't want to wait."

Craig Wall Image
Monday, July 27, 2020
Mayor defends controversial overnight removal of Columbus statues
Mayor Lori Lightfoot commented for the 1st time since her controversial decision to remove two Chicago Christopher Columbus statues in Grant Park and Little Italy.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Days after the overnight removal of two Chicago Christopher Columbus statues, Mayor Lori Lightfoot commented publicly for the first time since her controversial decision. She answered questions about why it had to be done so secretly, under the cover of darkness.

"I wanted to make sure that we did it as quickly as possible, and we received some information that day that raised some very serious public safety concerns. I didn't want to wait," she said.

WATCH: Crews remove Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park

Crews remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park Friday morning.

The statues, which were removed from Grant Park and Little Italy, had been a point of contention in recent weeks, including one incident that left nearly 50 Chicago police officers injured.

When pushed for details, the mayor would only say that there was some intelligence that gave her great concern, but several police sources told ABC7 they were unaware of any intelligence about something bad that was going to happen if the statues had not been taken down.

WATCH: Chicago police release video showing confrontation near Grant Park Columbus statue protest

Police said the video shows a person dumping out a backpack with what appear to be frozen water bottles, which they said were then thrown at officers.

The mayor also dismissed claims by some alderman that her decision simply appeased the protesters.

"This was about public safety," she said. "Anyone who saw the videotapes from a previous Friday night, which saw a peaceful protest high jacked by vigilantes who came there to hurt the police, but also other people got hurt in the ensuing chaos. This is about public safety, pure and simple."

WATCH: Chicago aldermen react to Mayor Lightfoot's decision

Christopher Columbus statues in Grant Park and Little Italy were removed Friday morning.

The Police Superintendent David Brown said removing the statues took away a flashpoint for protesters and allowed police to redirect resources to prevent violence in neighborhoods.

He also credited having those extra officers available to help keep the shootings and murders down this past weekend.

"When we commit significant resources downtown when protests turn violent, that means the violence in the south side and west sides don't get the deployments that they deserve and need and want," Supt. Brown said.

WATCH: Political analyst Laura Washington speaks on Mayor Lightfoot's decision to remove statues

ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington talks about Chicago removing Christopher Columbus statues from Grant Park and Little Italy Friday morning.

Brown called the weekend numbers, which included 51 shooting victims and three murders, tenuous progress after four straight weekends with double-digit murders.

The mayor has said the removal of the statues is temporary, but the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago said if the statues are returned, protesters will too.

Local Italian Americans, other leaders call for peace, threaten 'war' in Little Italy's Arrigo Park


Some Chicagoans said they were glad to see the statues removed from Grant Park and Arrigo Park. For others, it was deeply painful.