CHICAGO (CBS) — Eight months after a group of protesters tried to tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park, and clashed with police officers guarding the monument, the Chicago Police Department is asking for help identifying some of those involved.

On Monday, police issued a community alert featuring a YouTube video of the incident, and an array of grainy images of mask-wearing protesters. Anyone who recognizes someone from the images is asked to contact Det. Stevens (badge #21475) at the CPD Area Three Detective Division at (312) 744-1148.

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On July 17, hundreds of protesters at a rally to defund the police tried to tear down the Columbus statue in Grant Park.

The demonstration started at Buckingham Fountain as a protest to defund the police before moving south into Grant Park. The situation escalated very quickly as more people showed up. Chicago police officers provided security, but once the crowd got to Grant Park things took a violent turn. Fireworks were set off near the plastic-covered statue, and some in the crowd fought with police providing security.

Police said officers were left with no choice but to use pepper spray to clear out the crowd and move them away from the park.

Chicago police released this array of images of individuals sought for their involvement in a clash with officers at the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park in July 2020. (Credit: Chicago Police)

Days later, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a “group of vigilantes” hijacked plans for a peaceful protest at the Columbus statue, and police said 49 officers were injured when “organized mobs” pelted them with rocks, frozen water bottles, and explosives.

At the time, Lightfoot said people have a “sacred right” to peacefully protest in the United States, and she said she supported what had been planned as an event “to really uplift the stories of indigenous people here in Chicago” on Friday evening in Grant Park. Unfortunately, she said those plans were hijacked by “a group of vigilantes.”

“People who came for a fight, not a peaceful protest,” she said. “You’re going to see video that shows these people, before they got to the Columbus statue, kneeling down, dressing in all black, with goggles, forming a phalanx with umbrellas, and with shields around them, and then pummeling the police with projectiles; frozen water bottles, cans, other projectiles.”

Days after protesters tried to tear down the Columbus statue, police showed off video footage of what they said showed “organized mobs” attacking officers. Chicago Police Department Area Three Deputy Chief Daniel O’Shea said the videos showed of a group of people forming a shield of umbrellas and changing into all-black clothing, before moving in “platoon-like fashion” with a barrier of banners connected by PVC pipe, before throwing frozen water bottles, rocks, and fireworks at officers guarding the statue on Friday evening.

Police Supt. David Brown denounced what he called “organized actions to provoke violent responses from our officers.”

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At the time, police said there were 12 arrests made during the protest; for mob action, battery to a police officer, and criminal damage to property. Brown said toppling the statue could have caused serious injuries or death to those in the crowd.

Some people in the crowd told CBS 2 that they saw police mishandling a woman. One man said he was trying to record the situation when an officer took his phone and threw it to the ground.

Miracle Boyd, 18, said she had at least one tooth knocked out by a Chicago Police officer during the unrest on Friday. Some friends believe the officer was trying to punch away her phone and instead hit her in the mouth.

Video shows Boyd getting punched in the mouth by a Chicago Police officer – hard enough to lose at least one tooth while shooting video on her phone.

“There was no way I should have left a protest bruised and battered for exercising my freedom of speech, and freedom to assemble. I am disgusted and never would have ever thought I’d become a victim to the biggest gang in America,” Boyd said at the time.

Lightfoot said the Civilian Office of Police Accountability would investigate any claims of misconduct stemming from the incident.

The mayor had the Columbus statue removed from Grant Park one week after the clash between police and protesters. The city also removed Columbus statues in Arrigo Park and the South Chicago neighborhood.

Lightfoot also launched a commission to review more than 500 public monuments in the city to “provide a vehicle to address the hard truths of Chicago’s racial history, confront the ways in which that history has and has not been memorialized, and develop a framework for marking public space that elevates new ways to memorialize Chicago’s true and complete history.”

Last month, that commission identified more than 40 Chicago statues and monuments that could be potentially problematic, and is asking for public input to help decide their fates. The list included the three Columbus statues, as well as monuments to former Presidents Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and William McKinley; several statues of Native Americans; a monument to fascist Italian politician Italo Balbo; and a monument of the Haymarket Riot.

The committee said the 41 monuments were flagged for public discussion for a variety of issues:

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  • Promoting narratives of white supremacy
  • Presenting inaccurate and/or demeaning characterizations of American Indians
  • Memorializing individuals with connections to racist acts, slavery, and genocide
  • Presenting selective, over-simplified, one-sided views of history
  • Not sufficiently including other stories, in particular those of women, people of color, and themes of labor, migration, and community building
  • Creating tension between people who see value in these artworks and those who do not

The city is now seeking public input on those monuments before deciding the next steps.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff