CHICAGO - Tensions were heated Friday night in Grant Park as protesters clashed with Chicago police, hurling objects at officers and attempting to tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus.
Hundreds of protesters rallied, crowding around the Columbus statue while trying to tear it down. The statue was still vandalized and tagged with spray paint.
Dozens of officers from across the city were sent into the chaos to disperse the crowd. Police confirm to FOX 32 that 18 officers were injured and some were taken to area hospitals. Twelve protesters were arrested.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a statement Saturday, supporting peaceful protesters and denouncing violent actions by citizens and police.
"A number of individuals came with frozen water bottles, rocks, bottles, cans and other gear to throw at officers," the statement read. "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.There have also been several reports of excessive force by the police. These are also unacceptable."
Rioters were heard chanting, “Columbus was a murderer! Columbus was a thief!” the Chicago Tribune reported.
As objects flew in the air toward police, some officers were seen hitting some members of the crowd with batons, according to the newspaper.
“We unequivocally condemn Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to send the Chicago police to beat, arrest, and terrorize the demonstrators and journalists gathered in Grant Park tonight,” a group of elected officials said in a statement released late Friday.
The statement was signed by several members of the City Council, including Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor and Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, and two members of the Legislature — state Rep. Delia Ramirez and state Sen. Robert Peters.
Local news site Block Club Chicago reported that one protester, an 18-year-old woman, had several of her front teeth knocked out when an officer punched her. It also shared a video of that assault and a photo of the woman’s bloodied mouth and missing teeth. It identified her as Miracle Boyd, a member of the anti-gun violence group GoodKids MadCity.
The police department said in a statement that officers assembled in the park as the protesters converged there and were “providing security and protecting their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble.” It said that as demonstrators approached the statue “some members of the crowd turned on the police and used the protest to attack officers with fireworks, rocks, frozen bottles, and other objects.”
Amika Tendaji, an organizer for the protest, during which artists tagged the statue with slogans including “Decolonize Chicago” and “Black Lives Matter,” decried the officers’ use of force to protect a statue.
“I think the people of Chicago and the world have proven that they are over police brutalizing people,” she said. “They’re over police murder, they’re over police terrorism, so the people are going to keep fighting.”
Earlier Friday, there was a Solidarity Rally at Buckingham Fountain, calling to defund the Chicago Police Department, which remained peaceful. The event was hosted by Black Lives Matter Chicago, Chi-Nations Youth Council, Black Youth Project 100, Chicago Alliance against Racial and Political Repression, among others.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.