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‘For God’s sake,’ looting undercuts George Floyd protests and won’t end racist policing

George Floyd was a tipping point, ripping a Band-Aid off a festering wound of racism too often seeping into America’s policing. But demands of justice for Floyd are getting lost in destruction, arson and looting.

A Chicago police SUV sits in front of a boarded up Walgreens at 8628 South Cottage Grove Ave. It was one of several drugstores looted over the weekend.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A man of rare emotion, my ex-husband was disgusted, saddened.

“No grocery stores are open — looted, or closed for fear of looting,” he said Monday. “They hit the Walgreens for God’s sake! We can’t get his medicine.”

That’s the Walgreens at 4748 W. North Ave., and the medicine, for our son.

“What a bunch of a-holes. They hit everything. The bank, the dollar store, the furniture store. Where are people going to shop for food?” he asked.

“And the seniors, where will they get medicines?”

He lives on the West Side, and had our medically fragile son for the weekend when all hell broke loose in the wake of the cellphone-videoed killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, yet another black man killed by police.

Protests began peacefully but grew violent as they unfurled across the nation, a Band-Aid again ripped off the festering wound of racism that too often seeps into America’s policing.

Enough is enough. These kind of police killings can’t continue, protesters are saying. I agree. Killed similarly in 2014, Eric Garner allegedly was selling loose cigarettes. Floyd died for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

He cried for his mother in his final moments. “Man, please. Oh please. I can’t breathe. Please. The knee in my neck. Mama. I can’t breathe.”

Officer Derek Chauvin, knee thrust into the neck of a handcuffed Floyd, wouldn’t budge — for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. “No, staying put where we got him,” Chauvin told an officer who asked if Floyd should be moved.

And stay he did. He didn’t get off Floyd’s neck until a full 2 minutes and 56 seconds after Floyd stopped moving, or breathing. This, according to the criminal complaint charging Chauvin with third-degree murder.

Nearby, a young black man and young white woman pleaded for Floyd’s life to no avail.

It’s a tipping point in a month where two white men in Georgia were finally charged in the murder of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery — only after video surfaced 2 12 months later.

A month where a white woman in New York’s Central Park, angry over a black man telling her to follow rules, called 911 and falsely accused him of threatening her life.

All of these hurt.

They’re reminders of America’s great sin, coloring everything from “the conversation” we have with black sons about interacting with police, to warning our sons of racists like the woman in Central Park, who will seek to get them “caught up.”

But we can’t ignore my ex-husband’s frustration, too.

The protest message has been diluted by destruction, arson and looting wreaked on neighborhoods from the wealthy Magnificent Mile to struggling ones on the South and West sides.

The first night of the Chicago protests at first seemed to have the right playbook, the one seen during protests in 2015 after the video of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times was shared. I followed protesters Friday as they marched across the Loop, raising voices and signs condemning police brutality, with an occasional end-run around police to block major traffic arteries.

But that soon devolved into chaos, stoked by factions whose goals were violence and to tar the message. And into crime, stoked by factions whose goal was self-gain.

Add pent-up rebellion after two months of sheltering in place.

The destruction, arson and looting has caused community heartbreak on a level not seen since the 1968 riots, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Parts of the West Side have never recovered, still struggling to bring back businesses like the ones destroyed Sunday in the Madison Street business district.

“I’ve never seen such poor behavior in my life. What they did to people who invested in our neighborhood, poured their lives into their businesses, is horrible. These stores don’t have to open back up again,” my ex lamented. “The looters didn’t think about that.”

Protesters have spoken loud and clear in demanding justice in the Floyd case, and an end to racist policing.

Destruction and looting pushes neither of those needles forward.

So that leaves me doubly angry. I’ll be driving to the West Side to deliver medicine for my son until that pharmacy re-opens, but some may not have that option.

They hit the Walgreens, for God’s sake.