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Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart: Carry on peaceful protests, but looters and arsonists will go to jail

Monday, June 01, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Sheriff Tom Dart on Monday delivered a two-pronged message: Peaceful protesters should carry on, but looters and vandals will find there’s plenty of space for them at the jail.

“To the peaceful protesters, please continue your peaceful protests," Dart said, referring to people hitting the streets to condemn the police killing of George Floyd. "You have every right to do that. You are justified in doing so. It was a horrific thing that occurred in Minneapolis. Please continue your peaceful protests to have these issues raised in the appropriate way so change can happen.”

“But what we can’t do is we can’t conflate that with people who are affirmatively committing criminal acts on purpose," Dart continued. "Their only goal is to utilize these groups of peaceful protesters for their own criminal acts.”

“For individuals committing violent acts, we will find space for you at jail,” the sheriff added. "We will make sure that there is a place available for them. ... I just want that to be clear. Just because of the issues with COVID, it doesn’t mean that there’s an ability where people are going to be able to walk free. That’s not going to happen.”

Dart said that, as of Monday morning, 110 people had been sent to the jail who were arrested in connection with the Floyd fallout. Fifty bonded out after posting bail, but 60 were being held because they didn’t have bail money or were ordered held without bond. More arrestees are expected, he added.

The sheriff spoke alongside Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle during a virtual news conference. Preckwinkle, too, praised the peaceful protesters — particularly those who wore masks and plan to quarantine now — but also said, “It’s important to recognize the difference between peaceful protesting, and looting and vandalism.”

“I stand with the individuals who exercise their right to protest and transform their frustration and anger into political action, but we have to understand that the looting and the vandalism provide ammunition to those who want to marginalize, discredit, diminish our critique of America,” she added. "As I said yesterday, we cannot allow looting and vandalism to define us.”

Dart said that some of the violence that occurred over the weekend was clearly orchestrated, but he said it’s not known yet whether there is some sort of “overarching” organization behind that orchestration.

He said between 750 and 1,000 people showed up at the North Riverside Park Mall in North Riverside intending to loot the place.

“There was no peaceful protest that any of us were aware of going on anywhere near there,” Dart said. "There was a concerted effort. People went there with a plan to hit it. So that group itself was well organized. Whether or not it had tentacles to a bigger group, we’re working on that.”

Similarly, 20 to 40 people showed up at a strip of stores in Harvey and “just devastated them,” Dart said, calling it “definitely organized.”

Preckwinkle, when asked what needs to be changed to stop police oppression of minorities, cited more accountability and training, but she also called for political action.

“Clearly we have a white nationalist president, and as I’ve said before, those of us who believe that doesn’t reflect the values of our great nation need to be looking hard at changing that leadership,” she said.

 



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