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Looting spreads through Chicago, suburbs after downtown access blocked

Some business owners chose to guard their stores all night Sunday to deter vandalism and theft.

Onlookers watch as a looter walks away with dozens of shoes taken from a Foot Locker in the Logan Square neighborhood Sunday night.
Onlookers watch as a looter walks away with dozens of shoes taken from a Foot Locker in the Logan Square neighborhood Sunday night.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

While peaceful protests against police brutality continued Sunday in the wake of George Floyd’s death, fires, broken windows, looted stores and spray-painted walls moved across the city and suburbs as authorities blocked access to the Loop.

A scattered police presence across the city left pockets open for looting all day without officers responding in many areas on the South, Southwest and West Sides. But on the North Side, where protesters marched through the streets Sunday evening, dozens of officers walked alongside them protecting stores.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the first of two Sunday press briefings she had heard reports of incidents and police were on the way to “determine if the rumors were true, and if so, to take action.”

“We are going to be prepared — we are prepared — and officers will respond accordingly in the event there is any effort to loot anywhere in the city,” the mayor said.

But several shopping corridors, including near 35th, 79th, 87th and 95th streets, were targeted by looters, with entire strip malls torn apart starting in the afternoon and into the night.

Near a main shopping area at 25th Street in Little Village, a large group of community members appeared to be standing guard in front of neighborhood stores, throwing bottles at passing cars to keep them away. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, groups of officers in riot gear were posted at strip mall entrances.

Farther south, a Walgreens and T-Mobile at 35th Avenue and King Drive were broken into, with pieces of broken glass strewn outside and city garbage cans thrown at the windows.

A Walmart at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue had shattered and spray-painted windows, and shopping carts and debris were littered around the building. Officers yelled through a bullhorn for looters to “please disperse,” but police largely stayed away from the crowds in that area. An armed security guard later came through the area walking around the Walmart looking for looters, sending people running.

A Best Buy was vandalized at 555 W. Roosevelt Road in the South Loop.
Sun-Times staff

West Loop and South Loop businesses were hit, too, with windows shattered at a Target at Jackson Boulevard and Aberdeen Street, and a Best Buy, Trader Joe’s and several other stores broken into in a South Loop shopping corridor.

In west suburban Lombard, village officials closed the Yorktown Center shopping mall and two nearby plazas after reports of damage in the area.

“The Village of Lombard has been notified by nearby communities that they are experiencing vehicles and groups traveling along the Butterfield and Roosevelt Road Corridors causing damage,” officials said in an alert to residents urging them to avoid the area.

A nearby Walmart and the Oakbrook Center, an outdoor shopping mall, were closed and blocked off by police.

A person was shot Sunday afternoon while looters targeted the North Riverside Park Mall. Several groups began smashing windows and looting about 2 p.m., North Riverside police said.

A North Riverside police officer inspects the shattered door of a recently looted CVS on the corner of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

In the mayhem, someone opened fire and struck another person. The victim was hospitalized; their condition was not known Sunday evening, police said. After several hours, officers dispersed the groups and formed a perimeter around the mall.

Orland Park was one of several suburbs to impose a curfew, and barriers were set up around Orland Square Mall after reports of “disturbances,” officials there said. At least three arrests were made in Orland Park, two for attempted burglary of a jewelry store.

Business owners protect their shops

Late Sunday, along Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, small business owners planted themselves outside their storefronts while larger stores like Gap and Foot Locker — at the intersection of Kimball, Diversey and Milwaukee avenues — were looted.

“It’s been chaotic, it’s like no man’s land, the police are overwhelmed…” said Esam Hani, who parked a van on the sidewalk outside Red Star Liquors, 2725 N. Milwaukee Ave., and also owns five restaurants on the same block. “If I walk away, I know my place is next, so we’re just trying to sit here and protect our place.”

A white van parked in front of Red Star Liquor to protect it from looting in the Logan Square neighborhood, Sunday night, May 31, 2020. Owner Esam Hani parked the van there to prevent looting and is also hanging out on the block with friends and family to keep watch on the businesses.
A white van parked in front of Red Star Liquor to protect it from looting in the Logan Square neighborhood, Sunday night, May 31, 2020. Owner Esam Hani parked the van there to prevent looting and is also hanging out on the block with friends and family to keep watch on the businesses.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

At Alex’s Attic, 2733 N. Milwaukee Ave., Frank Marquez sat alone on a folding chair behind the window. He had been there since 10 a.m., leaving only to get tacos from Puebla Restaurant and Taqueria nearby. “I’d rather stay here until 7 or 8 in the morning and wait for the looters to fall asleep, then leave right now and come back to devastation,” Marquez said.

Marquez said he had been working for the last several days to prepare his store for reopening June 3, after it had been closed for over two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been struggling, getting by month by month,” Marquez said. “For it to finally be a couple of days from it, I’ve been working ... in here getting everything ready, then bam. I don’t know if we’re going to open June 3, even if Lori [Lightfoot] let the city open I’d choose to close my doors until its safe.”

Miguel Cortez and his brothers parked four vehicles outside Moreira’s Jewelry, 2640 N. Milwaukee Ave., which their father owns. Cortez said he was outside the store alone as people began eyeing his shop about 6:30 p.m., so he recruited nearby protestors to help stand in front of his store until his brothers arrived.

“We’re gonna be out here till 6 a.m.,” Cortez said. “Like our teenage years, hanging out all night,” his brother added.

Looting at the North Face store at 1629 N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park Sunday night.
Looting at the North Face store at 1629 N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park Sunday night.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Looting at a Target store at 1664 W. Division St. in Wicker Park Sunday night.
Looting at a Target store at 1664 W. Division St. in Wicker Park Sunday night.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times