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Pritzker adds Lake, four downstate counties to disaster proclamation amid civil unrest

Lake County is among those that represents “a threat for looting or destruction through planned protests,” is “home to critical infrastructure” or has requested state assistance, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said. 

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 on Wednesday.
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 on Wednesday.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday added north suburban Lake County and four downstate counties to his disaster proclamation to help “keep communities safe” amid ongoing, statewide protests against police brutality that have sometimes been accompanied by riots or looting, all following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

The latest downstate counties to receive more state resources include Peoria in the central part of the state, Rock Island in the Quad-Cities area, Stephenson along the Wisconsin border and Williamson in deep southern Illinois.

Each of the five represents “a threat for looting or destruction through planned protests,” is “home to critical infrastructure” or has requested state assistance, Pritzker’s office said.

The Lake County sheriff’s office said “hundreds of looters” smashed storefronts and destroyed vehicles Sunday in Waukegan and Beach Park. Things were quieter the next two nights, police said.

“We are thankful that peace prevailed again yesterday,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “Again, we thank the overwhelming majority of the community who denounce violence and strive for peace.”

Disasters have now been declared in 14 counties following the outrage over Floyd’s death, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will in the Chicago area. Champaign, Macon and Sangamon in central Illinois and Madison in the Metro East area are also covered under the proclamation.

Pritzker previously activated 375 Illinois National Guard soldiers to help enforce Chicago street closures following the weekend riots that resulted in hundreds of arrests, dozens of injured police officers and rampant property damage.

The Democratic governor activated another 250 soldiers on top of that Monday “to join the state’s civil disturbance response efforts” helping local governments as needed or requested by the Illinois State Police.

Besides Chicago, those additional forces are staged in Springfield, Peoria, Scott Air Force Base, Mount Vernon and Kewanee.

And with the civil unrest still unfolding in the middle of a pandemic, “all personnel deployed for operations will be outfitted with personal protective equipment, such as face shields and masks, to address the threats of our current COVID environment,” Pritzker’s office said.

Eleven state-run COVID-19 testing sites were shut down following the chaos, but 10 have reopened. The last one, in Waukegan, will relocate to a new site at 102 W. Water St.

“Additional security has been brought in to replace personnel that had been reassigned due to ongoing civil unrest throughout the state,” Pritzker’s office said.