CHICAGO, IL—Officers with the Chicago Police Department were the victims of an ambush on Friday, July, 17 while protecting a Christopher Columbus statue at Grant Park amid a protest that turned into a riot.

The CPD reported that 49 of their officers sustained injuries and 18 were taken to local hospitals to be treated for injuries following the violent mob. One officer had an incendiary device blow-up near his face causing damage to his eye. Another officer had a broken knee cap.

“What began as a peaceful protest at Grant Park Friday evening devolved into a very dangerous situation in which mob action deliberately sought to injure officers, provoke retaliation, and damaged property,” said Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown. “We cannot be a city that thinks mob action of a crowd is acceptable behavior.”

Before the attack, a rally was occurring at Buckingham Fountain with people exercising their First Amendment Rights with no issues, according to the Chicago PD in a press conference held on Monday, July 20.

As protestors were marching southbound on Columbus Drive towards the statue, a separate group of demonstrators hidden behind a wall of banners and umbrellas, changed into all-black clothing and assembled to march towards officers.

In a platoon-like fashion, the demonstrators proceeded forward on law enforcement, using the banners connected by PVC pipe as a veil, and began handing out objects for others to throw at police in an attempt to topple to the statue. 

Officers stood by the statue unarmed without riot gear while rioters attempted to charge and hurl frozen beverage canisters and fireworks at them. Some demonstrators attempted to jab at law enforcement with the PVC pipes as they were sharpened at their ends. 

A total of 12 individuals were arrested on Sunday for charges on mob-action, battery to a police officer and criminal damage to public property. There was minimal law enforcement present at the rally on Sunday, while police vehicles escorted the protestors marching in both the front and the back. 

The Chicago Police Department noted this is not the first protest to occur at the monument, but prior demonstrations at the statue had no issues as large as this one. Brown did alert the media that “organized mobs” have been hijacking protests over the past several weeks seeking to entice violence. Brown said that following the incident, officers will now always be wearing riot and protective gear while policing a protest.

Violent crime has increased in Chicago as of late with law enforcement reporting on Monday that 63 shootings occurred over the weekend, 12 of them resulting in murder.