What to Know
- Miami Police said seven people were arrested for vandalizing statues in Miami Wednesday
- The statues, of Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León, were spray painted red
- Miami Police said officers who responded to the scene were assaulted and their car was damaged
Multiple people were arrested after a peaceful protest in Downtown Miami Wednesday turned chaotic and statues of Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León were vandalized amid ongoing demonstrations over racial inequality.
City of Miami police said seven people were arrested after demonstrators spray painted statues of Columbus and Ponce de León, another Spanish explorer who landed in Florida, in Bayfront Park.
The Columbus statue, located on the east side of the park, had red paint all over its face and hands. "Black Lives Matter" was spray painted at its base, as well as a hammer and sickle.
The suspects of the vandalism were arrested, police said. Charges range from battering a law enforcement officer, resisting a law enforcement officer with violence, criminal mischief and inciting a riot.
Miami police said the demonstrations turned violent when officers were arresting the vandalism suspects. In a news release, the department said some demonstrators assaulted officers and damaged a police vehicle.
"City of Miami, we support peaceful protests but there will be zero tolerance for those who hide behind the peaceful protestors to incite riots, damage property, and hurt members of the public or our officers," the department said in a statement.
“You have every right to protest -- we have closed down streets, tried to assist in protests on I-95 ... We’ve offered a lot of liberty," Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said. "The line is when you damage property and vehicles, it’s the line we won’t tolerate.”
Police released video from surveillance cameras located outside the Bayside market place, where they say they monitored the gathering and spotted people spray painting the statues.
“We get to watch what they’re doing, where they’re going without having to actually physically be there. But the moment that we see crimes being committed, we will show up with the appropriate gear, if that includes helmets, if that includes gas masks, if that includes shields, because we are driving into a riot,” said Miami Police Department assistant chief Armando Aguilar.
The vandalism is one of the latest acts of defiance amid ongoing demonstrations against racial inequality in the country. People have been burning, beheading and dismounting monuments considered by some to be racist symbols.
Also on Wednesday, protesters in Minneapolis toppled over a 10-foot statue of Columbus outside of the Minnesota State Capitol.
In Jacksonville, a century-old statue commemorating women in the Confederacy was defaced earlier this week at the city's Confederate Park.
A group of demonstrators in Virginia also toppled over a statue depicting a Confederate general.