Italian American Group Sues for Christopher Columbus Statue's Return in Chicago

An Italian American group is suing for a statue of Christopher Columbus to be returned to a park in Chicago's Little Italy after it was removed by demonstrators last year, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit, filed by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, seeks to have the Chicago Park District reinstall the statue in Arrigo Park and claims its removal goes against a nearly 50-year-old contract the organization made with the Park District. The group's attorney, Enrico Mirabelli, said they tried to avoid the lawsuit and the Park District did not answer a letter sent by the organization to the district's board of commissioners.

"We remain committed to finding a reasonable solution," said Mirabelli. "But no governing body and no individual is above the law. When you make a contract, you are expect to follow the terms of the agreement."

Two other Columbus statues were removed last year in Chicago alongside the one in Arrigo Park amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Christopher Columbus Statue
An Italian American group is suing to have a statue of Christopher Columbus reinstalled in Chicago's Little Italy. Above, a statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle in New York City on June 12, 2020. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The statue in the park on Chicago's West Side, and two others elsewhere in the city, were removed last year after demonstrators swarmed a Columbus statue in Grant Park in a failed attempt to tear it down.

Organization President Ron Onesti said the agreement with the Park District says any alterations of the statue or plaza must have the written consent of the Columbus Statue Committee, a precursor to his organization.

"Removing the statue last year is a clear breach of our contract with the Park District," Onesti said.

At the time of the removal the Arrigo Park statue and the one in Grant Park, Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office said their removals were temporary and in response to demonstrations that had become unsafe for both protesters and the police. A third statue of Columbus, which had stood on display on the South Side for nearly 130 years, was removed days later.

Protesters said the explorer doesn't deserve veneration because of how he treated Indigenous peoples.

Mirabelli the contract would have been nullified if they didn't raise their legal grievances within a year.

"We never received a reply," Mirabelli said about the letter sent to the board of commissioners.

The city's Law Department declined to comment on a pending litigation and said it will review the lawsuit once received.

Chicago Skyline
An Italian American group is suing to have a statue of Christopher Columbus returned to Chicago's Little Italy. Above, the Chicago skyline from the Lakefront in Chicago, Illinois, on May 22, 2019. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images