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Chicago Authorities Aim To Prevent Another Night Of Looting


It matters what you call street violence during a protest. Is it a riot? Is it rebellion? Is it an uprising or just plain looting? Protesters in Chicago, after a police shooting, were unusually upfront in labeling some of their own actions Sunday night looting. And in response, last night, Chicago authorities raised the bridges into downtown and stopped many trains. WBEZ's Chip Mitchell has been covering the story. Chip, good morning.


INSKEEP: How did all this start, Chip?

MITCHELL: After midnight late Sunday, heading into Monday, as many as a few thousand people started arriving along the main shopping corridor downtown - upscale stores. They were smashing in windows and taking things by the armful or even filling up cars.

INSKEEP: And they also surrounded a police station and were pretty frank about what their goal was here, what they believed in as a tactic.

MITCHELL: Yeah. So then this is the next evening - last night. A hundred and fifty protesters led by Black Lives Matter Chicago, they came to support the alleged looters. About 100 of them had been arrested the night before, and they were getting released slowly from police custody. The protesters had this big banner. It was hand-painted. And it said, our futures have been looted from us; loot back.

So here's Ariel Atkins. She organized the protest and took questions from reporters about the looting.


ARIEL ATKINS: My people are struggling. People in this city are struggling through a pandemic. So I don't care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy's or a Nike because that makes sure that that person eats. That makes sure that that person has clothes. That makes sure that that person can make some kind of money because this city obviously doesn't care about them. Not only that, that's reparations.

MITCHELL: So she's talking about reparations for the injustices Black people have faced since slavery, Steve.

INSKEEP: Well, let's back up a little bit here. What led to the looting and then this second night of protests that police tamped down somewhat?

MITCHELL: Yeah. The city's new police superintendent - his name's David Brown - he said the looting stemmed from a shooting by Chicago officers Sunday afternoon on the South Side. It was in the poorest neighborhood of the city - one of the poorest neighborhoods. They shot and injured a 20-year-old man. Brown says that man had fired at the cops first.

So as the police were processing the scene, they got into a confrontation with a crowd of people. Brown said that crowd kept growing, that misinformation about the shooting spread. And he said social media posts then led to what he called a caravan of cars that went downtown to loot. Mayor Lightfoot said there's a big difference between protesting against police brutality and that looting.


LORI LIGHTFOOT: This had nothing to do with legitimate protected First Amendment expression. These were not poor people engaged in petty theft to feed themselves and their families. This was straight-up felony criminal conduct.

INSKEEP: What do residents have to say about all this, Chip?

MITCHELL: Well, they're struggling to make sense of it. So yesterday in this one neighborhood just north of downtown, a bunch of swanky department stores had been looted. Several residents told me they get why people are protesting police brutality, but none agreed with an analysis we often hear on the city's south and west sides that the economy is so rigged that looting like this is to be expected. Now, some residents of this neighborhood also said they'd like to see the National Guard deployed against looters. It's something some Republican lawmakers called for, too. But Mayor Lightfoot said the National Guard is not needed.

INSKEEP: Chip Mitchell of WBEZ. Chip, thanks.

MITCHELL: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chip Mitchell