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Lightfoot to Call in National Guard After Second Night of Civil Unrest

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that Illinois Governor JB Pritkzer has ordered the National Guard to maintain a “limited presence” in Chicago beginning Sunday in the wake of a second night of civil unrest in the city. 

Protesters stand on top of a bus in the Chicago Loop. Photo by Dusty Pilger.

“We need to protect people’s rights to life, liberty, property and employment. It is for these reasons that today the city of Chicago is taking new precautionary measures to further ensure the health and safety of our residents,” Lightfoot said in a Sunday morning press conference. 

After a long night of demonstrations that escalated into looting, Mayor Lightfoot imposed an indefinite citywide curfew from 9:00pm to 6:00am. In addition, all CTA services in and out of the Loop have been suspended. 

The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union condemned that curfew, saying that its broad and indefinite nature raised “serious constitutional questions.”

“Mayor Lightfoot’s summary announcement of a potentially indefinite curfew tonight for the entire City – with hundreds of people trapped in the Loop – raises serious constitutional questions that need to be remedied,” the ACLU said in a statement. The broad and vague nature of this order – and the suggestion that it is indefinite in time – invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. We encourage the Mayor to rethink this strategy immediately. The ACLU of Illinois is exploring all options including litigation.”

Now, in addition to that curfew, the National Guard will also have a presence in the city. 

“In addition to our 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that will remain in place until further notice, Gov. Pritzker, at my request, has ordered a contingent of the National Guard to maintain a limited presence in support of our police department in order to ensure we don’t have a repeat of what we saw last night,” said Lightfoot. “This wasn’t an easy decision; I did it at the request of and in consultation with Supt. Brown. But it’s surely the right decision in this moment.”

Protesters march in the Loop on Saturday afternoon around a car caravan. Photo by Dusty Pilger.

Governor Pritkzer called the situation an “immensely challenging moment for our city, our state, and our country.”

“At the request of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I am activating the Illinois National Guard to support the City of Chicago in protecting our communities and keeping people safe,” Pritzker said in a statement on Sunday. “To those peacefully expressing the pain, fear, and rage of this moment, I hear you. Your voices matter. We must address the profound injustices in our society and bring about real and meaningful change.”

Tensions boiled over in the Loop Saturday in the second day of local protests against police misconduct and the killing of African Americans by law enforcement. Hundreds were arrested throughout the day as skirmishes flared between police and protesters and gave way to looting during the night. Dozens of downtown storefronts were looted, multiple cars were burned, several buildings were set ablaze, and at least four people were shot. 

All photos by Dusty Pilger. 

All across America, people have taken to the streets after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, a black man, on Memorial Day. Video of Floyd’s death shows at least three police officers pinning him down. Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. Floyd can be heard saying “please,” “I can’t breathe,” and “don’t kill me.” Murder and manslaughter charges have been filed against Chauvin, and the three other officers on the scene were fired. 

Outrage over Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests, many of which eventually turned into full scale battles between police and protesters. Police attacked crowds of demonstrators with batons, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear gas. 

Protests began in Chicago on Friday evening which ended with 108 arrests. Thousands of people flooded downtown on Saturday afternoon, marching in multiple areas all across the Loop, the Magnificent Mile, and River North. Demonstrators gathered in Federal Plaza while a car caravan made its way around the Thompson Center. Trump Tower was a focal point of demonstrators, and at one point a group of demonstrators took over Lake Shore Drive. 

Protesters chanted “black lives matter,” “no justice, no peace,” defund the police,” and “16 shots and a coverup,” a reference to the killing of Laquan McDonald in 2014, as they marched. 

“I’m really tired of seeing racial injustice across our country,” Zach Daniels told the Chicago Tribune

Another demonstrator called Lola told the Tribune they were at the demonstration to “make sure the people who are murdered by cops have a voice and the best way that I know how to do that is leverage my white privilege, and I think it’s important to protect all black people no matter their background or their behavior or where they grew up.”

“They get to walk for crimes that we would be sitting in there for life for,” one protester told ABC7. “I know people that didn’t even commit crimes and they’re sitting that cell.” Another told the network police had “been doing our people wrong. This is just payback; this is reparation.”

Overnight, the iconic Central Camera Company, which has been in business since 1899, was set ablaze. Don Flesch, the third-generation owner of the store, said that he would rebuild, and that he was angry about the death of Floyd. 

“We’re gonna rebuild it and make it just as good or better so I’m not depressed at all…No lives were lost, nobody got hurt,” Flesch told CBS2. “It’s what’s going on, it’s reality so you deal with it. I’m angered about what started it which was what, Minnesota. That poor guy getting hurt and dying and then everybody around the country deciding how do we show our anger, how do we protest.”

While Lightfoot acknowledged the vast majority of protesters were peaceful, she criticized those engaging in property destruction and looting. 

“I want to express my disappointment and, really, my total disgust at the number of others who came to today’s protest armed for all-out battle,” she said at a Saturday news conference. 

More protests are scheduled for downtown Sunday afternoon beginning as early as 1:00pm, but with CTA services to the Loop cut off, it’s unclear how those protests will materialize. 

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