Looters are looters no matter what the circumstances

Don’t be confused. The young people smashing and grabbing on the Mag Mile on Sunday weren’t protesting. They were stealing.

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Looters smashed store windows at Macy’s on North Michigan Avenue at Water Tower Place on Sunday night.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The looting that cut a wide swath through the city’s high-end shopping district Sunday night might have been triggered by a police shooting in Englewood earlier in the day, as Chicago Police Supt. David Brown pointed out.

But that wasn’t the root cause of the looting.

Mayor Lightfoot is right.

Sunday night’s assault on downtown businesses was a brazen display of criminal behavior, pure and simple.

An estimated 100 people were arrested, two people were shot and 13 police officers were injured in what appears to be a coordinated effort to pillage Chicago’s premier shopping district.

The people who smashed their way into luxe boutiques didn’t do it because they were fed up with police shootings, or because they are out of work and desperate.

They did it because they saw an opportunity to steal stuff they couldn’t afford to buy and because they have no respect for the rule of law.

That same attitude was recently on public display when a video surfaced of a group of young black men on bikes carjacking an elderly white man’s vehicle at gunpoint.

In Chicago, the brazen looting and property damage didn’t start in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a Black man, died in May when a white police officer put a knee on his neck.

Several protests over Floyd’s death, including one in Chicago, turned into riots that damaged property and left behind empty store shelves.

But the type of pop-up vandalism that took place on Sunday has been going on in Chicago for a while.

In fact, police officers have been trying to deal with large crowds of young thieves targeting Mag Mile stores for at least two summers.

Sunday night’s rampage showed that groups of looters (with the help of social media) remain one step ahead of police.

I recognize that youth from poorer neighborhoods have been so marginalized; they have no respect for police or business owners in these wealthy areas.

But there’s no excuse for destroying property and robbing stores.

What happened Sunday night on the Mag Mile was not a protest. It was not a revolution. It was anarchy.

This brazen incident also exposes the divide that exists in the African-American community when it comes to criminality, and why calls to “defund the police” are falling on a lot of deaf ears.

While a large number of young Black people are operating under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” and making “good trouble,” as the civil rights icon, John Lewis, famously said, another group of young Black people have chosen an immoral path that leads to more pain and more destruction.

I wasn’t on the Mag Mile during the chaos, so I don’t know how many of the looters were white or Latinx.

But I woke up to images on TV of Black people—many of them young—hauling away armloads of stolen goods.

Those images convey a shocking lack of respect on their part for Black leadership in this city.

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Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday blasted looters who took aim at stores on the Magnificent Mile and elsewhere in the city early that morning.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

As was pointed out by my colleague, Maudlyne Ihejirika, in Monday’s “Chicago Chronicles” profile, for the first time in the city’s history, the top three leaders in the Chicago Police Department are African American.

The task to reduce the deadly gun violence falls squarely on their shoulders, and they are fully equipped to meet that challenge.

Yet because of incidents like this one, instead of being able to put more police resources in neighborhoods, police brass will have to put resources exactly where young protesters claim they don’t want them to go.

Lori Lightfoot, the first Black woman to serve as the city’s mayor, ran for office on a promise to make this city more equitable for all residents.

It was an inspirational goal.

But Sunday’s looting of the Mag Mile will make it even harder for her to deliver on that promise because some people are going to think the city is out of control.

Instead of becoming allies, a lot of well meaning folks of all races are going to pack up and leave.

And Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who is all-in on reforming a system that disproportionately impacts poor Black people, is under constant fire from critics who portray her as soft on crime.

Additionally, we can’t allow the organizers of these smash-and-grabs to overshadow the “good trouble” other youth are engaging in, nor can the looters be allowed to hold the business district hostage.

Don’t be confused.

These are not protesters. They are criminals and need to get more than a slap on the wrist.

Because what happened Sunday night on the Mag Mile can’t be tolerated for reasons bigger than stolen Jimmy Choo’s.

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