Throughout the last weekend of May, just as Chicago’s economic engine was getting ready to restart, roving bands of violent rioters and looters rampaged through the city decimating entire neighborhoods, ostensibly to “protest” the death of career criminal George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
Rioters torched cars and businesses and looted dozens of stores on the West and South sides of the city. The unrest and violence mostly subsided by Tuesday night, according to WTTW News, but not before doing massive damage. Over 1,000 people were arrested over that weekend, primarily for looting. According to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, 132 Chicago police officers were injured.
Authorities estimated the cost of the property damage to be in the millions.
On Sunday, while the antifa and Black Lives Matter-fueled riots were still raging, Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a heated and emotional conference call with Chicago’s 50 aldermen to brief them on the city’s response to the unrest.
But there was weeping, cursing and gnashing of teeth as the panicked Democrat aldermen demanded action from the mayor to stop armed criminals from destroying their neighborhoods.
At one point, the call went off the rails, with Lightfoot and one of the aldermen engaging in profane verbal fisticuffs. “With all due respect, f-ck you,” Ald. Raymond Lopez told the mayor during the heated exchange.
Before Lightfoot could speak, several aldermen lamented the wanton destruction in their neighborhoods.
The recording begins with Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) wondering how she could convince businesses like Walmart and CVS to rebuild on the South Side after the destruction.
“It’s like, what are we going to have left in our community?” Harris asks her colleagues before answering herself. “Nothing.”
The Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus criticized Lightfoot’s decision to use 375 members of the Illinois National Guard to block off the Loop and the central business district starting Sunday morning, making business corridors on the South and West sides an “easy target” for looters and criminals because they “did not have the same level of protection.”
Another alderman, Pat Dowell, said she felt helpless to protect older residents after their pharmacies and grocery stores were destroyed.
“I’ve worked really hard over the last seven years and now I feel like I am five feet back,” Dowell said. “I feel like I am at ground zero.”
Harris responded. “My major business district is shattered. Why would Walmart or CVS come back to our communities?”
Ald. Emma Mitts said her West Side ward was like “the wild, wild west out there.”
Finally, nearly five minutes into the call, Lightfoot piped in to defend her response to the unrest, telling the aldermen that accusations that she protected downtown at the expense of the West and South sides “offends me deeply, personally, in part because it is simply not so.”
“We’ve been working our a– off,” Lightfoot said. “It is all over the city.”
Lightfoot explained that it took three hours for officers to clear one area even after officers “gassed [the crowd] with pepper spray twice, they didn’t give a s–t.”
Lightfoot said officers were in “armed combat” with criminals on the West Side, and only made progress after they brought in “heavy equipment and stronger pepper spray.”
She went on to describe a crowd of 30-40 people who gathered outside a clothing store near 111th Street and Michigan Avenue as a “dude with a sledgehammer” broke into the store to allow it to be looted.
“I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen s–t like this before, not in Chicago,” Lightfoot said. She said it looked organized and vowed to launch a “Herculean effort” to convince businesses to rebuild and reopen. The mayor also said that the city would enlist faith-based community leaders to step up and help restore peace to the area.
Lightfoot said she had no choice but to shut down the Chicago Transit Authority after reports buses were “commandeered” by “anarchists.”
Dowell begged Lightfoot to use the National Guard to protect grocery stores and pharmacies, but the mayor said “they are not a magic tool, they are the military.”
She added that in other cities, National Guard troops have made things worse, “not better.”
Ald. Derrick Curtis complained that he had called 911 to report looting, but got no answer.
Rich Guidice, the director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, explained that the system was overwhelmed and that there were “no easy answers.”
During a press conference on June 1, the mayor said the city’s 911 center “processed more than 65,000 calls – mostly for looting – over a 24-hour period. The calls were coming in at “a rate of 2,000 every 30 minutes,” she said. One a typical day, the 911 center reportedly gets about 15,000 calls.
Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza broke down crying while pleading with Lightfoot for help.
“My ward is a sh-t show,” Sadlowski-Garza said, pointing out that cop cars and banks were being torched. “They are shooting at the police,” she cried.
Sadlowski-Garza said the unrest in her ward began at about 11 a.m. Sunday, when a group of 40 rioters broke into a marijuana dispensary, noting that it had nothing to do with a protest.
“I have never seen the likes of this,” Sadlowski-Garza lamented. “I’m scared.”
Lightfoot agreed that the situation was dire, saying “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried today.”
Sadlowski-Garza tearfully described how brand new businesses were being destroyed, while other shops were being protected by owners with “f–king shotguns.”
She asked the mayor if national guard could be deployed to their wards to protect businesses.
“What are we doing here?” she asked plaintively.
Lightfoot told Sadlowski-Garza that she felt the same way and was having a hard time wrapping her mind around why people would destroy their own neighborhoods.
The alderwoman said that she had videos of people shooting at each other in broad daylight like it was the “wild west.”
The mayor reiterated that the city was trying to bring in reinforcements deal with the looters and agitators, while noting that Chicago wasn’t the only city being roiled by the unrest. “Every city I know is experiencing the same or worse as we are,” she said.
“This is a massive, massive problem,” Lighfoot added. “People are just f–king lawless right now.”
Ald. Lopez called the destruction he was seeing “gut-wrenching” and warned Lightfoot that she would need to develop a plan to stabilize Chicago’s neighborhoods for at least the next five days because other cities were seeing sustained protests.
He said that because downtown was locked down, the rioters targeted their neighborhoods.
He called his Southwest Side ward “a virtual war zone” with all four lanes on one street filled with traffic and about 400 rioters.
“We can’t expect our police—and I don’t fault them at all—to be able to control this,” he said. Lopez added that it was a bad idea to expect the “faith-based community” to be on the front lines being peacemakers.
“I am simply not comfortable telling my churches … to be the intermediary in the middle of a riot!” he exclaimed. “We need something better!”
Lopez lamented that “half our neighborhoods are obliterated.”
“It’s too late! We have to come up with a better plan because my fear is, once they’re done looting and rioting and whatever’s gonna happen tonight—God help us–what happens when they start going after residents going into the neighborhoods?”
“We know people are here to antagonize and incite,” he added, warning that it could get worse when the sun goes down. “They’re not going to go to bed at 8:00,” he said.
“I’ve got gang-bangers walking around with AK-47s right now just waiting to settle some scores,” Lopez said.
He demanded to know what he should tell his residents, and noted derisively that telling “good faith people to stand up” was not going to be enough.
Lightfoot curtly thanked Lopez for his comments and asked for the next alderman to speak, but Lopez demanded that she answer his questions.
“No, I want an answer!” he exclaimed. “This is not something you ignore! …this is a question that I have!”
“I think you’re 100 percent full of sh-t is what I think,” Lightfoot shot back.
“Well, no offense but f–k you then,” Lopez responded angrily. “Who are you to tell me I’m full of sh-t?”
“If you think you are not ready and you think that we stood by and let the neighborhood go up, there’s nothing intelligent that I can say to you,” she replied.
“Well maybe you should come out and see what’s going on,” Lopez cried.
“That is the stupidest thing that I have ever heard,” Lightfoot continued. “I understand you want to preen.”
“Mayor you need to check your fu–ing attitude!” Lopez interjected angrily.
Later in the call, Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward) told the mayor that Little Village residents had join together to protect businesses in the largest shopping district outside the Loop.
“I’m talking about all segments of our community, including some on this call would prefer to be incarcerated,” Rodriguez said. “I think there are people of all stripes coming together, and I pray that holds tonight,” he said.
That exchange prompted Lopez to charge that Lightfoot knew that gangs were part of efforts to protect neighborhoods, and that Rodriguez was working with them.
Lightfoot called that charge “ridiculous.”
Rodriguez later told WTTW News that some of those who were protecting the neighborhood were targeting people “who were perceived to be outsiders” based on their race, saying that was “unfortunate and unacceptable.”