Activists urge Pritzker to send National Guard to Chicago, claim Lightfoot ‘can’t control the city’

“These police are on their own out there, and it’s despicable what’s going on in this city … We’re a laughingstock in the nation right now,” said community activist Frank Coconate.

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Members of the Illinois National Guard, Company C, 2nd Battalion of the 130th Infantry, prepare for deployment in Litchfield, Ill., Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008. By January, the largest deployment of Illinois National Guard troops since World War II will be in Afghanistan training and supporting a relatively new army and a police force. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

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A group of community activists implored Gov. J.B. Pritzker to declare a state of emergency and have the Illinois National Guard deployed to Chicago on Sunday, just two days after Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her allies stymied a similar push during a special City Council meeting.

In calling for the assistance, the activists pointed to the city’s surging summer gun violence as they urged both members of the City Council and Congress to rally behind police officers they claim have been outnumbered and attacked at recent protests.

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“This mayor, Lori Lightfoot, she can’t control the city. It’s out of hand,” Raul Montes Jr., a former candidate for City Council and the state Senate, said during a news conference in Little Village. “We need the National Guard to help out the police.”

On Friday, a proposal to have Pritzker declare an emergency and allow the deployment of the National Guard was referred to committee for further discussion on a 30-17 vote. Ahead of the vote, Lightfoot accused the four aldermen pushing the measure of “grandstanding.”

Two of them, Lightfoot has noted, are her most outspoken City Council critics: Anthony Beale (9th) and Ray Lopez (15th). Lopez and Beale were joined by Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), whose Far Northwest Side ward is home to scores of police officers, and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who represents Hyde Park and South Shore.

Beale — who has pushed back on the mayor’s characterization that he and his colleagues are merely seeking attention — said he wants the National Guard to assist overworked cops and not patrol the city. Lopez has said there’s no “plan” to respond to the rioting and looting that has left swaths of the city ransacked in recent weeks.

Though Lightfoot said she welcomes a “fulsome” debate over whether to bring in the National Guard following Friday’s meeting, she warned “it can go disastrously wrong” if the guardsmen aren’t deployed correctly.

After noting that protesters have pelted officers with objects and one cop was struck with a skateboard during a demonstration last weekend, activist Frank Coconate credited Lopez and other aldermen for placing their “focus and attention on the problem.” Videos of the chaotic protest also showed officers swinging batons at demonstrators, deploying a chemical irritant and rushing toward a crowd.

“These police are on their own out there, and it’s despicable what’s going on in this city … We’re a laughingstock in the nation right now,” Coconate said.

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