AT LEAST 18 police officers have been injured and a dozen protesters arrested following violent clashes on Friday evening in Chicago.
Tensions erupted when demonstrators threw objects and shot fireworks at authorities while attempting to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus.
Hundreds of protesters initially gathered around 5pm at Buckingham Fountain for a Solidarity rally.
The event, which called to defund the Chicago Police Department, was hosted by Black Lives Matter Chicago and other groups.
Around 7pm, the crowd marched toward the large Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park.
The city had previously covered the statue in plastic to avoid damage, but it was still vandalized and tagged with spray paint.
The crowd tied at least two ropes to the statue to try to pull it down, while some protesters threw fireworks and cans at the police, who in turn struck members of the crowd with batons, the Chicago Tribue reports.
Cops also used pepper spray to disperse the crowd
Both protesters and police officers were later seen pouring water into their eyes to wash off the chemical.
FOX 32 reports that at least 18 officers were injured and some were taken to area hospitals. Twelve protesters were arrested
Videos of the violence quickly circulated on social media.
Local politician Carlos Ramirez-Rosa backed the protesters, saying: “Black and Indigenous Chicagoans and people from all across the city came together to do what our so-called progressive mayor refused and failed to do.
“Chicagoans have been calling for the removal of Columbus statues for years.
“The responsible thing to do would have been to mothball the statue, as the city has done with many statues over [the] years.”
Christopher Columbus statues are being attacked in cities across the US due to the figures connection to slavery and colonialism.