Lightfoot Asks Pritzker To Send National Guard To Chicago

Photo of vandalized business in Chicago
"No Peace In A Police State" reads a sign left behind in the smashed display window of the Nike store on North Michigan Avenue. Photo taken Sunday, May 31. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ
Photo of vandalized business in Chicago
"No Peace In A Police State" reads a sign left behind in the smashed display window of the Nike store on North Michigan Avenue. Photo taken Sunday, May 31. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

Lightfoot Asks Pritzker To Send National Guard To Chicago

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Sunday said that Gov. JB Pritzker has ordered a contingent of the National Guard to come to Chicago and assist police, following a day of demonstrations that led to widespread looting and damage in the city. Pritzker said he activated 375 Illinois National Guard soldiers to assist local law enforcement with street closures.

Lightfoot made the announcement at a Sunday morning news conference, saying she had asked the governor for the National Guard. She also said only essential workers would be allowed into the central business district, city trains and bus service would be suspended, major streets would be blocked with city sanitation trucks and Chicago River drawbridges allowing pedestrians and vehicles into downtown would remain lifted.

The actions come after a night of tense protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that included violent clashes, hundreds of arrests and smashed windows at stores and other businesses.

Police Superintendent David Brown said police had made 240 arrests. Multiple police were injured, he said, and 20 officers were taken to hospitals.

Businesses downtown suffered damage during a massive protest on Saturday that turned violent, as some people smashed store windows, looted shops, set fires and spray-painted graffiti on buildings. The cleanup began Sunday, and downtown was filled with the sounds of glass being swept up and boards being drilled.

photo of volunteers sweeping up glass outside of Macy’s
Volunteers Brenna O’Brien and Don McCord clean up the sidewalk outside of the Macy’s store on S. State Street. Photo taken Sunday, May 31. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

On almost every street there were signs of the destruction — shattered windows, light poles knocked to the ground and graffiti everywhere, including “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Murder.”

Some of the worst hit areas were Lake Street, State Street and Michigan Avenue. At one point a cyclist rode past a group of people who were cleaning up or gawking at the damage and shouted, “It’s going to happen again tonight, folks.”

That was a fear voiced by business owners and downtown residents. The city is preparing for more protests Sunday.

The aftermath in Chicago echoed ones in cities across America that also saw violent demonstrations the night before as people continued to protest the death of Floyd, an African American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes.

Nick Boskovich, owner of Hi-Vibe, an organic juice shop at 160 W. Kinzie St., was sweeping up broken glass Sunday morning. Boskovich said he was worried more damage would happen Sunday night. He said it’s “time to let the police do their job. You can’t allow anarchy and citizens to be terrorized.”

photo of Nick Boskovich sweeping up glass
Nick Boskovich, owner of Hi-Vibe organic juice shop in River North, cleaned up the damage to his business Sunday morning after protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent. Patrick Smith / WBEZ

Some shop owners said they were still assessing the damage from vandalism, and that they were worried about taking another blow after the coronavirus pandemic had already severely hampered their business. They were looking forward to reopening on June 3, but said they are now unsure if that will be possible.

“They broke everything inside. All the cabinets. My cash register is gone. My computer is gone,” said Rocky Mehra, who owns Hubbard & State Cigar Shop at 6 W. Hubbard St.

He said vandals took “a lot of inventory, a lot of cigarettes, cigars, lighters. They’re all gone.”

Mehra said he was hoping he would get enough money from his insurance to keep his business alive.

A few blocks away, Parto Naderi was working with his employees to clean up his salon and spa on Wells Street, which he has owned for almost two decades. Naderi, too, was looking forward to finally reopening after months of being shut down. He was hopeful he’d be able to clean and replace everything to still make that happen on time.

But the damage is extensive. Besides breaking every window and glass door, vandals went deep into Naderi’s spa, smashing open doors, throwing files and products on the floor and breaking a store water dispenser, causing flooding. Naderi estimated the damage at $50,000.

“This is just not fair. We are on the same side. Nobody agrees with police brutality,” Naderi said. “[But] these guys are criminals. This has nothing to do with the cause, any cause. What kind of cause is criminal activity?”

Naderi said he had been calling police to come make a report for four hours. He said he eventually went and talked to some officers who happened to be in the area. They told him no one would be coming, and he should just clean and board up his storefront.

Naderi did find a silver lining in the sense of togetherness he felt from his fellow business owners and clients.

“Ever since this morning, I’ve been standing here. People, random people, come by and they say they are so sorry. ‘What happened to you? Can I come inside and help you?’ This is some good thing coming out of this awful mess,” Naderi said.

Zel Zwick, who lives downtown, was out with rubber gloves and a garbage bag cleaning up debris. She said she was just trying “to be one of the helpers.” Zwick got choked up talking about Saturday’s protest.

“It started out as such a beautiful message, and it took a horrible turn,” she said.

The city on Sunday morning announced new restrictions on access to the Loop in preparation for more demonstrations later in the day. The CTA is suspending bus and train service going into and out of the area “for public safety reasons,” according to a city statement.

The city also said multiple routes into the downtown area will be temporarily reduced, and access will be limited to people who work there, live there or do “essential activities.” The boundaries affected by the new restrictions are:

  • Division Street from Lake Shore Drive and North Halsted Street.

  • North Halsted from Division to Milwaukee Avenue and Grand Avenue.

  • Milwaukee from Grand to Kinzie Street.

  • Canal Street. from Kinzie to 26th Street.

  • 26th from Canal to Lake Shore Drive

About 50 people gathered Sunday morning to protest near Lightfoot’s house in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood. “We came to be here as soon as the curfew lifted to tell her that, you know, there shouldn’t be a curfew,” said Brian Bean, one of the protesters. “I want people to not arrest normal people like me and people that I know.”

Photo of demonstrators near Mayor Lori Lightfoot's residence
People gather near Mayor Lightfoot's residence in Logan Square to protest the citywide curfew she imposed Saturday night. Patrick Smith / WBEZ

The demonstration began at 6 a.m., at the end of the curfew the mayor imposed the previous night in response to the escalating situation in Chicago’s downtown area on Saturday. Lightfoot announced a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. that she said would remain in place until further notice.

The mayor on Sunday called for a 5 p.m. moment of silence for Floyd.

“Seeing the murder of George Floyd sickened me and it still does,” Lightfoot said at her news conference, taking several breaks to compose herself. “But rather than respond to his death as we should and focus our energy toward doing the hard work to create the change that we need, we have instead been forced to turn our focus and energy toward preventing wanton violence and destruction.”

WBEZ reporters Chip Mitchell, Dan Mihalopoulos, Monica Eng, Patrick Smith and Shannon Heffernan contributed to this story.