Credit: twitter.com/delvecchiograce

Chicago Movement Leaders Respond to Mayor Lightfoot’s Removal of the Columbus Statues

In the early morning hours Friday, the City of Chicago finally removed two statues of the colonizer Christopher Columbus. As stated by Chi-Nations Youth Council, “the people got this statue removed, the solidarity between Black and Indigenous peoples got this statue removed.” The people of Chicago demanded these colonial statues be removed as one step toward the decolonization of Zhigaagoong.

The removal of these statues follows years of concerted activism. For many, especially those indigenous to Zhigaagoong, Columbus is a symbol of genocide and theft. The City of Chicago had no right in the first place to erect the Grant Park statue on unceded Potawatomi land.

This morning, Mayor Lightfoot released a statement that makes it clear the decision to “temporarily remove the statues” was driven by a desire to increase policing in Black and Brown communities and to protect the colonial statues: “our public safety resources must be concentrated where they are most needed throughout the city, and particularly in our South and West Side communities.” Her statement reaffirms that our so-called “progressive” Mayor prioritizes police and colonial statues over the safety of the people of Chicago. 

We denounce the notion that this statue is being removed “to protect public safety” by concentrating cops in the South and West Side communities. Police are not public safety resources. Black and Brown communities on the South and West Side are already overpoliced. These communities do not need more cops to brutalize, terrorize, and criminalize them. We demand the City of Chicago defund the Chicago Police Department and invest in actual community and public safety resources. 

In the words of Aislinn Pulley of the Chicago Torture Justice Center and Black Lives Matter Chicago, “Chicago has the most cops per capita of any major city. Cops do not equal safety. If cops equaled safety, then Chicago would be the safest city in this country. Intercommunal violence is caused by economic disparity. It is caused by the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.” 

The Mayor claims she made the decision to temporarily remove the statues “after consultation with various stakeholders.” We ask the Mayor, who were these stakeholders? Not one of the 16 sponsor organizations of the Black Indigenous Solidarity Rally were part of these conversations. We reject this false notion of community input and engagement that is so common of the Lightfoot Administration when it comes to decisions that impact Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of Chicago. We demand actual public accountability and transparency, one of the many reasons we demand the passing of CPAC and the closing of Homan Square and other CPD blacksites on the path to abolition. 

We demand that Black and Indigenous youth, continually harmed and ignored, be centered in “determin[ing] how we elevate our city’s history and diversity.” But these conversations need to be more than about murals and statues. We need structural change. While Black and Indigneous youth have led the conversation on these changes—such as BLM Chicago’s 10 Demands, Good Kids/Mad City’s peace ordinance, Chi Nations Youth’s work to remove Columbus day, and students trying to remove CPD out of CPS—they have been continually ignored.

We stand in solidarity with all of the protestors who attempted to remove the statue after Lori Lightfoot and the City of Chicago refused to. We denounce the brutality of CPD and the cowardice of officials to respond sooner. It is sad and frustrating it took the blood of Black and Indigenous Chicagoans for Mayor Lightfoot to even temporarily remove a statue of a genocidal colonizer—off unceded land that doesn’t even belong to the City of Chicago. Protestors’ attempt to remove the statue was only “extremely dangerous” because—unlike every other city where the public has removed racist memorials—they were interrupted with pepper spray, batons, gas, riot cops, and SWAT teams. 

Every other major city has made efforts to respond to demands to defund the police, while it took police brutalizing protestors and stealing their property en masse, and Trump to send federal agents to Chicago, for Chicago to temporarily remove two of our monuments to white supremacists. Mayor Lightfoot has taken no steps to respond to the broader demands to defund CPD, and we will continue to show up in the streets with our righteous rage until our demands are met. Join us today at Freedom Square (1100 S. Homan Ave.) at 4pm as we continue our fight to decolonize Zhigaagoong and defund CPD. 

The following are our demands: 

DECOLONIZE ZHIGAAGOONG!

  • Rematriate unceded Native lands!
  • Officially recognize First Nations Garden as a permanent space and open more green spaces in the city!
  • Abolish C*lumbus Day, denounce of the Doctrine of Discovery, and honor all treaties!
  • Remove all colonial statues!
  • Remove all racist mascots!

DEFUND CPD! FREE THEM ALL!

  • Immediately cut CPD’s budget — reinvest in non-carceral social services and community programs; fire cops with multiple complaints; stop new hiring and buying weapons! 
  • Terminate plans to build a police academy in West Garfield Park! #NoCopAcademy
  • Remove CPD from CTA, CPS, and all other public institutions!
  • Close Homan Square and all other CPD black sites!
  • Pass CPAC to ultimately disband CPD!
  • Decommission the gang database!
  • Cease negotiations with the FOP!
  • Stop all asset forfeiture!

#DecolonizeZhigaagoong #DefundCPD