Pritzker activates National Guard at Lightfoot’s request ahead of Derek Chauvin verdict

Guard members, along with troopers from the Illinois State Police, will be deployed to Chicago starting Tuesday to “support the Chicago Police Department as needed,” the governor’s office said.

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Members of the Illinois National Guard keep watch and direct traffic at their post outside McCormick Place near East 24th Place and South King Drive, Wednesday afternoon, June 3, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that he is activating the Illinois National Guard — at the request of Mayor Lori Lightfoot — ahead of an expected verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused in the murder of George Floyd.

Guard members, along with troopers with the Illinois State Police, will be deployed to Chicago starting Tuesday to “pre-position and support the Chicago Police Department as needed,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

“It is critical that those who wish to peacefully protest against the systemic racism and injustice that holds back too many of our communities continue to be able to do so,” Pritzker said.

“Members of the Guard and the Illinois State Police will support the City of Chicago’s efforts to protect the rights of peaceful protestors and keep our families safe,” he said.

The guard will mainly be managing street closures, officials said.

The case against Chauvin was sent to the jury Monday afternoon after attorneys finished their closing arguments.

The incident last May sparked worldwide uprisings against systemic racism and police brutality, including in Chicago, where protesters regularly took to the streets throughout the summer.

Though the majority of those protests remained peaceful, officers and demonstrators clashed on multiple occasions, including in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, when Pritzker first sent the Guard to Chicago. He also called on the National Guard after charges were announced in the raid of the home of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police in Louisville.

The Office of Emergency Management said in a statement that the Guard is being deployed “out of an abundance of caution ... in the event that additional personnel are required to maintain public safety.”

“While there is no actionable intelligence at this time, we want to be fully prepared out of an abundance of caution. Our city has a long history of peacefully expressing its First Amendment rights and I encourage residents to exercise their rights to free speech this coming week thoughtfully, respectfully and peacefully,” Lightfoot said.

“Infrastructure assets,” such as city garbage trucks and other vehicles, will be “strategically staged to ensure the safety of residents, neighborhood commercial corridors and critical businesses,” OEMC said.

Last summer, when protests were at their peak, the city frequently used those vehicles to block street access to downtown and other popular business districts, and the bridges were raised over the Chicago River to limit Loop access for days at a time.

While officials said there are no plans to raise the bridges again in preparation for the Chauvin verdict, the Chicago Department of Transportation did announce Monday that the bridges would be raised Tuesday for “testing and maintenance.” However, the department backtracked on those plans after just 15 minutes, saying that the bridge lifts would be postponed and rescheduled for a later date.

Contributing: Associated Press

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