By Charlie De Mar

CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of protesters and Chicago police officers squared off at Chicago’s Grant Park Friday night.

A large group of protesters at a rally to defund the police was attempted to tear down the Columbus statue in the park. Fireworks were set off near the covered statue as hundreds gathered around. The rally took a violent turn with reports of some in the crowd fighting police.

Officers were prepared, not only wearing full riot gear but also with pepper spray in hand.

They were forced to use the pepper spray after the crowd defaced and attempted to tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus. Demonstrators scaled the statue and put a rope around it to try to take it down.

There has been a tarp covering the statue for several weeks

After the pepper spray was deployed, those in the crowd were visibly in pain, some collapsing as they gasped for air in the heat.

Around 8:15 p.m. police had pushed demonstrators back from the statue, leaving a clear line between the statue, police and demonstrators. However, the crowd did not back down. Some told CBS 2’s Jermont Terry they witnessed officers mishandling a woman.

“He was beating up a woman, and he took my phone and threw it,” one witness said.

The statue remained standing after police pushed the group back, but graffiti could be seen at the base.

The area of Columbus and Roosevelt was shut down for a good portion of the evening as Chicago police continued to move the crows west, away from the park, where the crowd dispersed.

A police spokesman described what happened as an “ambush.”

Police said at least a dozen people were arrested and several officers were hospitalized after being hit by objects that were thrown at them. At least four protesters were taken by ambulance to local hospitals. Police also confiscated a large number of bicycles.

CBS 2’s Marissa Parra was on scene reporting for CBSN when the stressful situation got even more heated. Her phone was knocked out of her hands as police moved to push her back.

This is a developing story. 

Charlie De Mar