Three dead and 35 injured in Chicago over the weekend – those are the numbers – but beneath the surface of these statistics lies a powder keg of civil unrest. Looters carted off bags of stolen merchandise from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, as police worked through the night to gain control of the mob. The city’s police superintendent claims the seeds for the civil unrest were sown early Sunday, Aug. 9, after a man fired shots at police while trying to flee arrest.
“We are coming for you.” – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
The shooter is a 20-year-old who was injured after officers returned fire but is expected to survive. He has four priors on record – including burglary, child endangerment, and domestic battery. Law enforcement recovered the man’s gun at the scene following the incident. All this sounds very much like a justified shooting on the part of Chicago police.
But mobs have a way of making things up as they go and can be whipped into a frenzy with the slightest provocation. Fueled by misinformation on social media, a crowd assembled, and at least one man was recorded shouting to the gathering that the police shot and wounded a child.
And Away We Go
That’s all it took for hundreds of people to gather their reusable shopping bags and “car caravans” and head downtown to Chicago’s tony Mag Mile to go “shopping.” Approximately 400 of Chicago’s finest were dispatched to the area to keep the peace. “This was not an organized protest; rather this was an incident of pure criminality,” according to Police Superintendent David Brown. Making the case that “[t]his was an act of violence against our police officers and against our city,” Brown and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared incensed by the madness and mayhem in an early-morning news conference after the anarchy. The mayor condemned the violence, saying, “To be clear, this had nothing to do with legitimate protected First Amendment expression.”
And those who do violate the law won’t be coddled, according to Lightfoot:
“To those who engaged in this criminal activity – we are coming for you. There is no justification for criminal activity. You have no right to take and destroy the property of others.”
Don’t tell that to Ariel Atkins, a BLM leader who said, “I don’t care if someone decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store, because that makes sure that person eats… That makes sure that person has clothes.”
The mayor emphasized her concern for the residents of Chicago as well as businesses that are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown. Lightfoot indicated the perpetrators of the weekend’s violence would be hunted down and prosecuted without equivocation, emphasizing, “This is not anywhere near acceptable.”
This week nine Chicago police officers were injured. More than 100 people were arrested by police overnight, and Lightfoot called on the state’s attorney to prosecute and “hold these people accountable” for their actions.
Chicago Is No Portland
Chicago has been simmering ever since the George Floyd incident, and while some are looking for an excuse to set the pot to boiling, the anger and resolve expressed by leadership displayed a “we mean business” attitude. Perhaps what no one is willing to say, but is evident, is that in the Windy City, both the mayor and the police superintendent are black. In Portland, where chaos has reigned for most of the summer, the mayor is white. Could it be he fears being labeled racist and wants nothing more than to signal his virtue? Whether or not that is the case, it’s clear that Chicago authorities are finally drawing a line in the sand.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.