Profiles in Courage it ain’t. After word got out that Lori Lightfoot had talked with Donald Trump and agreed to have two hundred federal officers deployed to Chicago, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of her home last night. Faced with a potential angry mob, Lightfoot reversed her previous position on statues and ordered the removal of Christopher Columbus monuments from city parks:
Not all Italian American leaders in Chicago are on board with the decision, but it has received the blessing of some groups, sources said. By taking the statues down, Lightfoot may draw criticism from those who believe she caved to activist demands.
Later Friday morning, the mayor’s office released a statement saying that she had both statues “temporarily removed … until further notice.”
“This step is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city’s symbols,” the statement said. “In addition, our public safety resources must be concentrated where they are most needed throughout the city, and particularly in our South and West Side communities.”
Lightfoot’s abrupt move in the dark of night was an about-face for the mayor, who has opposed taking down statues of the Italian explorer on the grounds that it would be erasing history. The mayor’s office statement Friday morning said that the city would soon announce “a formal process to assess each of the monuments, memorials, and murals across Chicago’s communities, and develop a framework for creating a public dialogue to determine how we elevate our city’s history and diversity.”
In other words, Lightfoot caved — and some alderman are angry about it, Fox’s Mike Tobin reported on Fox this morning. But did it work in appeasing the crowd in front of Lightfoot’s house? Yes it did, Tobin says … for a few minutes. After that the crowd went right back to angrily chanting for the city to defund its police department:
One alderman told the Chicago Sun-Times that Lightfoot never consulted with alderman on the decision. A police union representative called Lightfoot a “coward” for taking action in “the middle of the night”:
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) told the Chicago Sun-Times late Thursday that Lightfoot made “a unilateral decision” to remove the statues. …
[President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 John] Catanzara showed up at the park after hearing the statue was set to be removed. Catanzara has recently feuded with Lightfoot after he wrote a letter to President Donald Trump pleading for federal help to address the city’s surging gun violence.
“I’m sick of the mayor thinking she can do whatever she wants to do,” said Catanzara, who is of Italian descent. “She’s not a dictator. She’s a coward that she wanted to do this in the middle of the night when nobody was paying attention after she said she wasn’t going to take the statue down.”
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the protest in front of Lightfoot’s mayoral residence wasn’t about the statues in the first place. There had already been protests over the statues in the parks where they stood, with violence part of those demonstrations as well. Lightfoot had refused to take them down at that point. This demonstration demanded defunding the police, not the removal of the statues, as well as anger over Lightfoot’s agreement with Trump on the federal deployment. In fact, it was almost certainly primarily motivated by the latter.
Rather than stand her ground, Lightfoot threw the Columbus statues and history under the bus. This decision and its implementation under cover of darkness was nothing more than craven appeasement to protect her own position. “Coward” is the correct word for that kind of leader.