Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot denied that the city prioritized protecting the Loop over neighborhoods on the South and West sides over the weekend and promised to help rebuild.
“There is no way, no way we would ever let any neighborhood receive more resources and protection than any others. Ever,” Lightfoot said. “That certainly didn’t happen over the course of the weekend.”
Lightfoot said such criticism is offensive to her as a black woman and added: “We did not stand by and let the South and West sides burn as some are propagating.”
Lightfoot made her comments after protests over the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police, led to nationwide civil unrest, including widespread looting and some arson. The city shut down most access to Chicago’s downtown on Sunday after people burned and looted businesses in the Loop, and looting migrated to neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
Chicago officials deployed across the city but were overwhelmed, she said, as the city received 65,000 calls in a 24-hour period, 50,000 more than typical day.
“The fact is, the violence that we saw and the looting we saw spread like a wildfire,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor called it an “exceedingly difficult and at times scary weekend for all of us” but tried to strike a positive tone.
“We made a lot of hard decisions over the weekend and I know some of them were challenging for people,” Lightfoot said. “But I also have hope today on how we will move forward and heal as a city.”
The city will deploy workers from the departments of Streets and Sanitation, Water Management, Transportation, Buildings and other employees into neighborhoods on the South and West sides to assess damage, assist small businesses and chambers of commerce to start the process now of rebuilding key commercial corridors in neighborhoods.
Mayor’s office personnel will help with cleanup efforts, she said.
“I want you to hear from me, not only do I know that, I and we will be your partner in your rebuilding,” Lightfoot said. “We will not let our city be in shambles.
“We will rebuild and the city of Chicago government will lead those rebuilding efforts. We are not going to leave our neighborhoods behind. That will not happen on my watch,” she said.
Police Superintendent David Brown said there were 699 looting arrests, mostly on the South and West sides. At least 132 officers were injured Sunday, and there were 48 shootings, with 17 deaths, he said.
Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady also urged those who were protesting or in crowds over the weekend to stay away from people older than 60 or others who have underlying medical conditions. The city’s concerned there could be an increase in cases of the coronavirus that could come after the weekend chaos, Arwady said.
“I am concerned that this weekend not just related to the protests but related to a lot of people gathering in Chicago for a lot of reasons, we may see ourselves take a step backwards down the line here in Chicago,” Arwady said. “And that’s because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus does not care what else is going on in the city. Nothing has changed unfortunately related to COVID-19. We still do not have a treatment. We still do not have a cure. We do not have a vaccine.”
Lightfoot also doubled down on her comments about President Donald Trump from Friday, when she said her message to him “begins with F and it ends with U.”
Lightfoot’s comments were an apparent response to Trump tweeting a message that included, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” in reply to rioting in Minneapolis and elsewhere following the death of Floyd. Lightfoot said the president cannot be allowed to divide and destabilize the country.
“He wants to show failures on the part of Democratic local leaders, to throw red meat to his base,” Lightfoot said Friday. “His goal is to polarize, to destabilize local government and inflame racist urges. We can absolutely not let him prevail. And I will code what I really want to say to Donald Trump. It’s two words. It begins with F and it ends with U.”
Asked about it on Monday, Lightfoot said, “Anyone who is fomenting violence is doing wrong and we need to stand up united against that.”
Lightfoot and Brown defended the city from criticism that police officers didn’t do enough to intervene in looting. Both officials denied there was any stand down order. To the contrary, Lightfoot said, the city arrested hundreds of looters and took 64 guns off the street.
“That’s not standing by,” Lightfoot said.
But Lightfoot also acknowledged that the looting spread so far and fast that the police force couldn’t have stopped it all even if it was four times larger.
“People unfortunately believed they could act in a lawless manner without any regard for their neighbors,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor also passionately denounced the impact looters have on their community, particularly in struggling neighborhoods on the South and West Side.
“When you loot a business, you’re not just taking goods. You’re destroying someone’s dreams. Those small businesses sacrificed and saved money to have their dream realized, they hired employees from your neighborhood to serve you,” Lightfoot said. “You took their hope and destroyed it.”
“God help us all if we believe that we can express our pain by destroying the hopes and dreams and the livelihoods and the fortunes of others,” she added. “That’s not the way. That is just not the way.”
Asked about vigilantes standing guard in neighborhoods, Lightfoot discouraged people from arming themselves and protecting their businesses.
“Do not pick up arms and try to be police,” Lightfoot said. “If there’s a problem, call 911. We will respond.”
(c)2020 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.