July 24 (UPI) -- Workers in downtown Chicago removed a statue of Christopher Columbus early Friday, which had become a flashpoint for confrontations between activists and police.
Crews removed the statue from Grant Park hours after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered that it be moved temporarily as a result of the clashes, which she said have become dangerous.
"This action was taken after consultation with various stakeholders," Lightfoot said. "It comes in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently pull the Grant Park statue down in an extremely dangerous manner."
Clashes between Chicago police and protesters erupted last week when activists attempted to tear down the statue. Twelve people were arrested and dozens were hurt, including a number of officers.
Another monument to Columbus at Chicago's Arrigo Park was also removed under the mayor's order.
"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," she added.
The statues will be put in storage temporarily.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates claims of police misconduct, said it received more than 20 complaints stemming from protests in Grant Park, including accusations of excessive use of force and irritant spray and denial of legal counsel.
Italian-American groups opposed the removal of the statue.
"We're very hurt, that's the feeling," Sergio Giangrande, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, told WLS-TV. "Columbus is a symbol of hope we've all celebrated for years.
"Maybe we all forgot why we celebrate Christopher Columbus, and to take somebody who's a symbol of hope from us, we're not OK with that."