Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters Monday.
Hours of widespread looting in downtown Chicago early morning Monday is increasing tensions among public officials across the city and state, and also activist groups who are demanding for accountability in a police shooting Sunday that sparked the maelstrom.
Hundreds of mostly young people showed up in cars and trucks around 1 a.m. Monday and proceeded to smash windows, loot, and tussle with police from the Loop in the south all the way to Old Town in the north. The Chicago Police Department said they arrested more than100 people, but largely maintained a steady presence downtown throughout the morning to prevent destruction and arson.
Police Supt. David Brown characterized the looters as criminals and said 13 police officers were hurt. “This was not an organized protest,” he said. He and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and the court system to be push for more people charged in violent crimes to be held in jail instead of being released.
“These people need to be held accountable and not cycled through the system,” Lightfoot said. “No one wants hold people in jail because they are poor. But people who are engaged in this kind of criminal activity, they need to be held accountable. And we cannot do it alone,” she said.
In a statement, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) echoed Lightfoot, saying that Foxx’s office “has unfortunately created an environment where criminals do not fear legal consequences.” He called for “immediate policy changes” in her office “to further compel the courts and our judges to address this public safety crisis immediately.”
Sen. Bill Brady (R-44) agreed, writing on Twitter that “leaders at the city, state, and federal levels” need “to do everything they can to ensure those who perpetrated these crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Foxx noted how 2020 is a “weird” year, presenting many factors that are leading to the unrest. “We’ve seen a global pandemic coupled with civil unrest coupled with economic depression and we see the violence we see now,” she said. While she said she understood the “frustration” of Brown and Lightfoot, she said it wasn’t helpful to “finger point,” or place blame, on her office.
Instead, Foxx said the police have failed to bring her office enough cases that warrant felony charges.
“Our office is not in the arresting business. We get cases when they are brought to us,” she said.
Of the 5,000 arrests made following Floyd’s killing through late June, only 29 percent were felony cases, she said. Court dates for those arrests start this month. Only about 500 arrests involved people who were involved in peaceful protests, such as breaking curfew. Their cases were not pursued by her office, she said.
A Chicago Tribune investigation Monday found that during Foxx’s first three years, her office dropped all charges against nearly 30 percent of felony defendants; during the same time period of predecessor Anita Alvarez, the rate was 19 percent.
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans also weighed in to defend the court’s bail practices, saying in a statement that “while the case is pending, the court’s bail decisions must balance the right of the defendant to be presumed innocent with any evidence that the defendant would pose a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person.”
Condemnations of Lightfoot
Several Chicago aldermen and activist groups accused the mayor of prioritizing downtown at the expense of neighborhoods.
Four aldermen, two Cook County commissioners and two state legislators released a statement that condemned the mayor and Brown for what they suggested was not taking the needs of Black and Hispanic residents seriously. They also reiterated their call to “defund the police.”
“Billionaires don’t need to smash windows to loot. Our system is designed so that billionaires can legally rob from our public coffers and workers, and even make more during moments of crisis,” they said. Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35), Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25), Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33) and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) all signed to support the statement.
On Facebook late Monday, Sigcho-Lopez was joined by Jitu Brown, the national director of the Chicago-based activist group Journey for Justice Alliance, who characterized the looting as “a rebellion.”
“Those young people who are treated as criminals by the police … they are basically rejecting following the mandate of this city,” Brown said.
Chicago’s downtown is now closed indefinitely between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., Brown and Lightfoot announced. Sigcho-Lopez said closing downtown puts neighborhoods “on their own” without adequate policing. He was supported by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-82) who issued a statement calling for the National Guard to Chicago. “No more excuses. No more failures.
During the wave of looting in early June, Lightfoot asked Gov. JB Pritzker to send the National Guard to form a perimeter of downtown so that police resources could be used in the neighborhoods. On Monday she said that the city does not need the extra help.
“No, we do not need federal troops in Chicago — period, full stop,” she said.
Pritzker told reporters that state police were dispatched Sunday night. “Anything and everything we are asked to do we will be helpful,” he said.
Allen shooting sparks outrage
The root cause of the looting outbreak was the police shooting of Latrell Allen, 20, in Englewood early Sunday afternoon, police said. Police said that officers responded to a call about a man with a gun; once spotting Allen, they pursued him on foot. After he shot at them, they returned fire. Allen is now recovering at the University of Chicago Hospital and is expected to survive, officials said. He was charged late Monday with two felony counts of first-degree attempted murder and one felony count of the unlawful passion of a weapon. He is due in bond court Tuesday.
Hours after Allen’s shooting, misinformation that Allen was a teenager and was killed by police went viral on social media, police said.
Trina Reynolds-Tyler, a member of Black Abolitionists Network, told The Daily Line that she understood the looting because for years, she said, Chicago has allocated tax dollars to subsidize private developments in some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods at the expense of its poorest areas that have been left behind. She added that because Illinois is a conceal carry state, Allen was justified in carrying a weapon, and even fleeing the police when they showed up.
“A lot of young people and older people carry weapons because they feel they have to protect themselves because they feel the police are not protecting them. The streets are hot right now,” she said. “When police enter a situation, it is only in the form of escalation. The mayor has not imagined what other kind of intervention could look like. We need to think differently how we deal with black people with guns.”
Black Lives Matter released a statement Monday that blasted Lightfoot for not providing “black communities any alternative for demanding justice” and for not criticizing the police “for shooting yet another Black man.”
“When protestors attack high-end retail stores that are owned by the wealthy and service the wealthy, that is not ‘our’ city and has never been meant for us,” they wrote. “The mayor cannot expect people to play by her rules as she refuses to treat them with basic dignity. These protests can only end when the safety and wellbeing of our communities is finally prioritized.”