Statue of Columbus in Grant, Arrigo Parks Must Be Returned, Preserved at Taxpayer’s Expense, Italian American Group Says

The Joint Citizens Committee of Italian Americans said Wednesday that it is finalizing plans to return by Columbus Day – and protect at the city’s expense – statues of Christopher Columbus that Mayor Lori Lightfoot had removed from Grant and Arrigo Parks two years ago. removal was ordered.

President Ron Onesti said the plan – drawn up by a “national security firm” at the committee’s expense – calls for different levels of security.

The statues became a favorite target of protests and vandalism during the civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Protesters clash with police in Grant Park as they try to bring down the statue during a major confrontation in July 2020.

Onesti said security recommendations range from cameras, motion detectors and 24-hour guards to “plexiglass enclosures” and “coatings” to make cleaning easier.

To protect the statue of Columbus in Grant Park, reports suggest barriers to keep the public away. There is even a proposal to educate the public – by installing plaques to “tell the story of the Native American experience.”

“We really believe it’s all because of misunderstandings and literal lies about idols,” Onesti said.

Protesters marched on a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park on Friday, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Monday that protesters who came armed with goggles and umbrellas to protect themselves were not fighting for a peaceful demonstration, but were for.

Some protesters who marched on the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park in July 2020 were armed with goggles and umbrellas to protect themselves and were not for a peaceful demonstration, but for a fight, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the time.

Alexandre Gouletas/For the Sun-Times

Onesti declined to put a price tag on the proposed security improvements, saying only that Chicago taxpayers should “come with 100% of it.”

“This is a protective measure of property owned by a city or park district, and it is the job of the police department to protect their property,” he said.

“If the mayor comes back and says she needs some involvement from the private sector, we’ll be entertained to see that.”

Eld. Nick Spasato (38th), an Italian American, said the recommendation for round-the-clock police protection may not be realistic.

“We’re small like that. Putting three shifts of police officers guarding it would be the worst thing. We don’t want to drive people off the road for this,” said Spasato.

The alternative is to “be citizens for the people,” but Spasato said he doesn’t believe “we’re going to see this in this country ever again.”

“All I know is what will happen if it goes back up: They’ll be rallied. The next day, they’ll be there, and they’ll attack the police. They’ll try to tear it down. They’ll be throwing paint at it.” It will be the same as what happened again a few years back,” he said.

Statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park.

Grant Park Statue of Christopher Columbus.

The protection plan is designed to be a “conversation starter”—if only Lightfoot would initiate that conversation, as she continues to ask a judge to dismiss the Joint Citizens Committee lawsuit against the city.

If she doesn’t, Onestie is relying on a court order to force the mayor’s hand by Columbus Day. He said he waited a year after the statues were “temporarily removed” to take court action.

“We want to have them ready with a plan now, and we want to celebrate it until Columbus Day,” October 10, he said.

Lightfoot was in July 2020 Ordered to remove two statues “temporarily” Grant and Arrigo from their homes in Park in the middle of the night, based on information that something bad is about to happen.

At the same time, the mayor argued, the statues should not be vandalized, but used to confront the country’s history and trigger a long-pending “count”.

City crew remove the Christopher Columbus statue from its pedestal in Grant Park in July 2020.

City crew remove the Christopher Columbus statue from its pedestal in Grant Park in July 2020.

Tyler Passiac Larvier/Sun-Times File photo

City Hall then created an advisory committee to comprehensively review more than 500 Chicago sculptures and monuments to identify those that were offensive, problematic, or not representative of the city’s values ​​of equity and justice.

In early April, the Committee of Monuments recommended that those two statues of Columbus be set aside permanently.

But Lightfoot strongly indicated that the purely advisory recommendation, nearly two years in the making, would be ignored—especially when it came to the two statues of Columbus as well as the Columbus Monument near 92nd Street and South Chicago Avenue. Comes.

“I don’t believe in erasing history. I think you have to put it in proper context. I think you have to respect the entirety of that history,” the mayor said then.

Arrigo Park, 801 S., in June 2020.  A Chicago police vehicle in front of the Christopher Columbus statue in Loomis St.

A Chicago police vehicle in front of the Christopher Columbus statue in Arrigo Park in June 2020, after the statue was vandalized. Later it was removed.

Tyler Passiac Larrivier/Sun-Times

Lightfoot described Columbus after his arrival as an “incredibly controversial figure that happened to native populations throughout the Americas”.

“They didn’t discover America, did they? The native population was here for centuries before Columbus left,” she said.

“But I also know that Columbus is an incredibly important figure to many people—not the least of which is the Italian American community in Chicago.”

Sposito said Lightfoot assured him during their most recent dinner meeting that the Columbus statutes would be returned. He didn’t say when.

“If it’s after the election, I’m fine — as long as it’s back there,” said Sposato.

“It will be three years [by then]Which is a long time – but as long as we get them back there.”

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