- Crews used a large crane to remove the statue from its pedestal in Grant Park in the early hours of Friday
- News had spread on Thursday evening that Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot had authorized the statue's removal
- The statue had led to chaotic protests in the city after protesters tried to pull the monument down last week
- Donald Trump has announced plans to send federal agents to Chicago following his intervention in Portland
A statue of Christopher Columbus in Chicago was removed under cover of darkness today after drawing chaotic protests in a wave of violence which has led to Donald Trump's deployment of federal forces in the city.
Hours after news spread that mayor Lori Lightfoot had sanctioned the statue's removal, crews in Grant Park used a large crane to hoist the monument from its pedestal in the early hours of this morning.
The statue of Columbus, seen by many as a symbol of racial oppression, had already been covered in a plastic wrap to protect it from vandals and was at the center of violent scenes last Friday night. Trump announced on Wednesday that federal agents would be sent to Chicago after last week's violence was followed by 12 fatal shootings over the weekend.
The president's intervention was bitterly opposed by Lightfoot who said it would lead to a 'wave of opposition' amid anger over the federal crackdown in Portland, Oregon.
The statue was removed in front of a small cheering crowd in the early hours of Friday while passing cars honked as the monument was winched to the ground.
It was driven away on the back of a truck after coming down at around 3am, but it was unclear where the monument would be taken.
Reports had emerged on Thursday night that Lightfoot had authorized the statue's removal after previously opposing the move.
Protesters had already gathered outside the Chicago mayor's house Thursday night to demand she defund the police and turf Trump's federal agents out of the city.
Chants turned from 'f*** CPD' to cheers of elation when someone announced over the microphone that the city is planning to take the controversial Columbus monuments down from Grant Park and Little Italy.
However, there was outrage at the decision from Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara who slammed Lightfoot as a 'coward'. Steve Cortes, spokesman for pro-Trump Super PAC America First, called the mayor 'feckless' and accused her of giving in to 'violent nihilists'.
Several Italian-American leaders in Chicago said the community was unhappy with the decision.
Gianni Pasquale of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans blasted it a betrayal to the Italian-American community for many of whom Columbus is a symbolic figure.
'The Italian American community feels betrayed. The Mayor's office is giving into a vocal and destructive minority. This is not how the democratic process is supposed to work,' he said.
The statue of Columbus was at the center of last Friday's violence when cops unleashed tear gas on protesters and several were left injured after they attempted to tear down the statue.
At least 20 complaints of police brutality were filed against officers following the night's events, with one activist Miracle Boyd saying she had one of her teeth knocked out by a cop when they smacked her in the face.
Days later, Chicago police released footage showing protesters aiming fireworks and frozen water bottles at officers and announced 49 officers had been injured by 'criminal agitators' in the commotion.
On Tuesday in another neighborhood, a spray of bullets from a car passing a gang member's funeral wounded 15 people and sent dozens running for their lives.
'I've never seen things worse in this city than they are right now,' said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and longtime activist on the city's South Side.
Trump announced on Wednesday that federal agents would be sent to Chicago, ignoring Lightfoot's warnings that deploying paramilitary personnel would 'spell disaster' for the city.
'What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago,' Lightfoot said in a letter to Trump.
''Secret, federal agents who do not know Chicago, are unfamiliar with the unique circumstances of our neighborhoods and who would operate outside the established infrastructure of local law enforcement would not be effective, regardless of the number, and worse will foment a massive wave of opposition,' Lightfoot said.
A collection of activist groups had filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, seeking to block federal agents from interfering in or policing protests.
However, Lightfoot sought to ease concerns that the surge will resemble the kind of scene that unfolded in Portland, where unidentified agents in camouflage have beaten unarmed protesters and stuffed some of them into unmarked vehicles.
Lightfoot said she has been told the U.S. Attorney's Office will supervise the additional agents supporting the Chicago offices of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
But given the longstanding animosity between city officials and Trump, leaders from the mayor downwards worry that those promises will not hold up.
City officials will be on guard for any 'steps out of line,' particularly from agents with the Homeland Security Department, and they will not hesitate 'to take the president to court,' Lightfoot said.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Attorney General Bill Barr both said the mission in Portland — to protect federal property — differs from the focus in Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque.
Barr said the number of agents being deployed to Chicago is 'comparable' to the Kansas City surge of more than 200.
Trump, who is making law and order a central theme of his re-election campaign, painted Democrat-led cities as out of control and lashed out at the 'radical left.
'In recent weeks, there has been a radical movement to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police department,' Trump said, blaming the movement for 'a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.'
Lightfoot has repeatedly said she does not support protesters' calls to pull money from police in favor of social services.