Four people were shot in downtown Chicago Saturday, one fatally, after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew following violent clashes between protesters and police in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
On the second day of protests, rioters shattered windows of police cars, tipped one Chicago Police SUV onto its side and set several on fire. Some protesters threw bottles of urine or fireworks at police. And several officers were seen striking back at protesters with batons during confrontations.
Rioters smashed multiple storefront windows and carried off goods inside. Along the Magnificent Mile, shops were stripped. Macy’s in the historic Marshall Field’s building was hit hard. Looters jumped through shattered windows and swept up items at a Starbucks and and 7-Eleven near Lake and Dearborn. Thieves also hit the Thompson Center.
During a Saturday night news conference, Lightfoot praised the “patience” of officers who endured projectiles thrown at them and said they had done their best to uphold their oath to protect the city.
“I want to express my disappointment and really my total disgust at the number of others who came to today’s protest armed for all-out battle,” Lightfoot said. “You don’t come to a peaceful protest with bowling ball, or a hammer, or a shovel or a baseball bat. You don’t come to a peaceful protest with bottles of urine to throw at police officers.”
Lightfoot said giving protesters about 35 minutes notice of a curfew before being arrested was “ample.” The curfew, which runs from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., will last until further notice.
“The situation has clearly devolved, and we’ve stepped in to make the necessary arrests… We’re going to be aggressive in arresting the people who want to engage in criminal acts.”
As protests over the Floyd killing gained momentum, Chicago joined other major cities on Saturday setting curfews, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia. A white police officer, since fired, has been charged with third-degree murder in the slaying.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said multiple officers had been injured by nightfall Saturday, including one who suffered broken bones, injuries considered “pretty serious,” — one night after dozens of officers were injured during protests Friday. Police did not provide numbers of how many people were arrested Saturday.
Lightfoot said she understood the pain and “righteous anger” of the protesters who gathered downtown but said their anger needed to be expressed peacefully.
“I’ve been engaged for the last six-plus hours watching a tragedy unfold in our city,” the mayor said. “What started out as a peaceful protest has now devolved into criminal conduct.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered “any resources” the city might need, but Lightfoot said she hadn’t considered asking for Illinois National Guard support.
Protests begin peacefully
The protest began peacefully at 2 p.m. Saturday as hundreds gathered at Federal Plaza, chanting and demanding “Justice for George” and bearing the names of African Americans and others who have died at the hands of police officers in Chicago and other cities.
Soon, the crowd swelled into the thousands and spilled throughout the Loop, splintering into groups. Tensions quickly mounted in various pockets of the sprawling march, with numerous scuffles between protesters and police. Some people spray-painted CTA buses and police vehicles, while others hurled eggs and water bottles at officers who scrambled to contain the crowd. Rioters slashed tires on several police SUVs.
Protesters surrounded police near the Daley Center and eventually made their way to Trump Tower while another group shut down Lake Shore Drive.
State police were called in to assist Chicago officers.
About 5:30 p.m., a police line began pushing protesters from Trump Tower south across the Chicago River. Several bridges spanning the river were raised, and police issued a warning to protesters in Spanish and English about the potential use of chemical agents, noise and less-than-lethal munitions to control the crowd.
Cops and protesters clashed soon after. When officers tried to make arrests, they at times were attacked by the crowd, who forced the release of some protesters. Officers responded by swinging at protesters with batons and striking some.
A police SUV was rolled on its side after protesters broke out its windows with clubs and skateboards. Soon other police vehicles were lit on fire and left to burn. By 8 p.m., looting was underway at multiple downtown buildings.
In a standoff with police near Grand and Dearborn, protesters hurled rocks from a distance at officers, who responded by unleashing streams of pepper spray into the air and chasing the protesters west. At Grand and LaSalle, where about 50 protesters congregated as firefighters arrived to put out blazes in three dumpsters that were blocking the street.
“I don’t really know what the right way of doing this is, but who cares as long as someone is listening,” said Odiom Okojie, who was protesting near Grand and LaSalle. “For too long, our cries have gone unheard.”
As the melee stretched late into the night, police and protesters repeatedly played a game of cat and mouse as officers tried to protect buildings and quell the mayhem, with repeated calls for police backup needed at Trump Tower and Water Tower Place.
“What’s going on right now is a reflection of a lack of accountability by our government,” Chelsea Sloan, a South Loop resident, said as she watched a group walk out of a looted currency exchange. “People of color and impoverished people bear the brunt of it, and they don’t have any other way to articulate how they’re feeling, because we’ve tried peacefully protesting, and this is the last straw. We’re at our wits end.”
More than 100 arrested in protests Friday
City officials had braced for a sizable showing, enacting a sweeping downtown parking ban that restricted vehicles from Chicago Avenue south to Congress and from Lake Shore Drive west to Wells. The CTA canceled most Loop service for a portion of the afternoon and again in the evening.
The crowds on Saturday dwarfed protests on Friday that stretched into early Saturday. Brown had said those was mostly peaceful, though a series of tense confrontations led to 108 arrests and about a dozen injured officers, including one who suffered a broken wrist. Several Loop storefronts were smashed.
“We’re going to give people space to express themselves,” Lightfoot said hours before the latest protest. “That’s what we do in Chicago, but we won’t tolerate lawlessness.