Chicago: Chicago authorities restricted access to downtown after caravans of looters smashed windows, damaged storefronts and stole merchandise overnight, leading to the arrests of more than 100 people.
Two people, a civilian and a security guard, were shot amid the melee, as crowds descended on major commercial areas, including the iconic Magnificent Mile, Superintendent David Brown said during a press conference Monday.
More than 400 officers were dispatched to downtown after seeing social media posts encouraging looting in the wake of an officer-involved shooting Sunday on the South Side, Brown said. Thirteen officers were hurt in incidents that included broken windows, stolen merchandise and shots fired at police, he said.
“This was an assault on our city,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who appeared with Brown during the press conference. “It undermines public safety and breeds a sense of insecurity among our residents. It also undermines our recovery efforts. These same stores that were hit last night were hit previously, not just by the looting but by closures related to Covid-19.”
Bus and train service were temporarily suspended into downtown. Access will be restricted from 8 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday local time, and the city’s iconic bridges over the Chicago River were raised temporarily to limit access into the city’s loop. Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans on Monday ordered the closing of all courts except bond courts, according to a statement.
The looting, property damage and violence were a “major setback” that shut down businesses on Monday, Kimberly Bares, president and chief executive officer of the Magnificent Mile Association, said in an email. Some will remain boarded up until further notice in the downtown, which generates $2 billion in property taxes, she said.
Last week, the association met with Lightfoot, Brown, city aldermen, state legislators and the state’s attorney’s office to “to underscore the immediate need for permanent police resources and vigorous prosecution of offenders,” she said.
Some unrest had started Sunday with a crowd growing in a South Side neighborhood following a shooting incident involving police and a 20-year-old man, who was injured but is expected to survive, according to Brown. Police had responded to a call of a man with a gun who was shot after pointing the weapon at officers, Brown said. After the shooting, tempers flared, “fueled by misinformation,” and then police began seeing social media posts, he said.
“This was not an organized protest,” Brown said of the looting that followed. “This was an incident of pure criminality.”
The 20-year-old involved in the initial incident, Latrell Allen, has been charged with two counts of attempted murder of police officers and one count of unlawful use of a weapon, according to an emailed statement from the Chicago Police Department late Monday. He allegedly had fired multiple rounds at uniformed officers responding to the call of a person with a gun on Sunday, according to the statement.
The unrest comes as Chicago is struggling with a spike in violent crime and follows looting and protests in May and June spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Murders in the 28 days through Aug. 2 have more than doubled to 94 from 37 in the same period a year earlier, according to police data. Shooting incidents have jumped 79% to 361 during that time.
Brown said Monday that he has temporarily canceled time off for officers, who will be working 12-hour shifts. The city also has activated a so-called neighborhood protection plan, coordinating various agencies including transportation and streets and sanitation with the police department in response to the looting and increase safety, according to Lightfoot.
“Criminals took to the street with confidence that there would be no consequences,” Brown said. He said the lack of prosecutions following arrests in May and June partly have led some to believe there may be no punishment.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx pushed back on that assertion on Monday, tweeting a link to arrest statistics for Cook County, which includes Chicago. Of the 5,000 arrests made in the county from May 29 through June 16, about 2,300 were related to demonstrations and civil unrest spurred by Floyd’s death, according to Foxx. From that group, 325 were felony arrests and 90% of those were approved for charges by her office and are pending in court, she said.
“The violence and destruction we saw last night was unacceptable,” Foxx said in a tweet. Her office “has been extremely clear in making the distinction between peaceful protesters and prosecuting those causing harm, damage, and inciting violence. Simple fixes can’t solve complex problems,” she added. – Bloomberg
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