Lightfoot: ‘We Did Not Stand By and Let the South and West Sides Burn’

Protesters and police officers wearing riot gear have a standoff near Daley Plaza on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)Protesters and police officers wearing riot gear have a standoff near Daley Plaza on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

After a weekend of protests and rioting that saw widespread looting and damage to businesses across Chicago, suspension of CTA service and the imposition of a curfew, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown unequivocally refuted claims that city resources had been disproportionately deployed to safeguard downtown at the expense of the rest of Chicago’s neighborhoods.

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“I want to be absolutely clear on this: There is no way we would let any neighborhood receive more protection than any others,” Lightfoot said at a Monday morning press conference. 

“We didn’t stand by and let the South and West sides burn, as some people are propagating,” the mayor said. “The strategy yesterday (Sunday) was to add more personnel and services on the South and West sides.”

Downtown access was limited Sunday to residents, business owners, essential workers and first responders precisely so that police could be directed elsewhere, she said. 

Brown said the statistics — 300 arrests made Saturday during protests downtown versus 699 arrests made Sunday, largely on the South and West sides — don’t match the narrative that the police department did more to patrol downtown streets.

“That’s just not accurate,” said Brown.

The superintendent also debunked the notion that agitators from out of state were to blame for much of the violence that took place in Chicago following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

There was, Brown said, at least one group of agitators from Minneapolis among those arrested, but the majority were simply Chicagoans “displaying criminal behavior.”

During the day, his officers observed peaceful protests, but at nightfall, criminality took over, said Brown, with the overwhelming number of arrests being made for looting.

Brown noted that 64 guns were recovered Sunday, and 132 officers were injured.

In one 24-hour period, Chicago’s 911 center received 65,000 calls, which is 50,000 more than normal, Lightfoot said. 

Ten thousand of those calls were for looting alone, the mayor said, adding that at one point, operators fielded more than 2,000 calls in just 30 minutes.

“The police department was responding as best they could,” said Lightfoot. “The challenge was, it was everywhere. Everywhere. The violence and looting spread like a wildfire.”

Brown described a fluid situation that changed moment by moment. Small groups of rioters would frequently attempt to draw police to one location as a distraction from the actual target, he said.

“We saw this time and time again,” Brown said, and the police department didn’t take the bait.

Protesters yell at a line of police officers at State and 35th streets, about 3 miles south of the Loop, where police set up a blockade on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)Protesters yell at a line of police officers at State and 35th streets, about 3 miles south of the Loop, where police set up a blockade on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

The Department of Buildings has identified 180 damaged buildings during preliminary evaluations, according to Commissioner Judy Frydland.

The mayor said some streets closures would remain in effect at hot spots and to allow for cleanup by Streets and Sanitation, and CTA will continue to bypass downtown stops, though all other service has been restored.

Both Lightfoot and Brown reiterated their commitment to supporting Chicagoans’ right to protest, but condemned those fomenting violence.

“Righteous anger” and First Amendment expression are one thing, said the mayor, who said she was “repulsed” by what she saw in Minneapolis.

“We can’t conflate that (with) people trying to co-opt this moment of pain and turn it into something lawless and criminal,” Lightfoot said. “We’re not going to tolerate it.”

Brown brought the spotlight back to Floyd, whose arrest and death has spawned nationwide outrage.

As he patrolled the streets Sunday, Brown said he noticed one young, black female protestor who kept repeating to officers, “Say his name,” meaning Floyd. She wanted an acknowledgement of Floyd’s unjust death — his murder — said Brown.

In the moment, the superintendent said he whispered Floyd’s name to himself.

“Today, publicly, I want to say his name: Mr. George Floyd. We are embarrassed by the cops of Minneapolis’ use of force asphyxiating you,” said Brown. “To the rioters and looters: You disgrace the name of Mr. Floyd … An eye for an eye leaves both of us blind.”

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]


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