More than 100 people were arrested on Monday following a night of looting and unrest in the US Midwestern city Chicago that left 13 officers injured and caused damage in the city’s upscale Magnificent Mile shopping district and other parts of the city, authorities said.
The looting followed demonstrations that began after police shot a man who allegedly fired at officers the previous day in the city’s Englewood neighbourhood.
Police Superintendent David Brown said the unrest “was not an organised protest” but “an incident of pure criminality”.
At one point early on Monday, shots were fired at police and officers returned fire. Brown said a heavy police presence is expected in the downtown area until further notice.
“This was straight up, felony criminal conduct,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “This was an assault on our city.”
Those arrested were expected to face charges including looting, disorderly conduct, battery against police. Lightfoot said the city has activated a neighbourhood protection programme that will be in place “for foreseeable days until we know our neighbourhoods are safe”.
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No officers were injured in the shooting, police spokesman Tom Ahern said on Twitter. Many of the businesses that were ransacked had recently opened after Chicago protests of George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis devolved into chaos.
The unrest began shortly after midnight and anti-police graffiti was seen in the area of the Magnificent Mile, which is one of Chicago’s most-visited tourist attractions. Hours earlier, dozens of people had faced off with police after officers shot and wounded a person on Sunday in the Englewood neighbourhood, located about 16km (10 miles) away.
Brown said after a crowd dissipated following that shooting, “We are monitoring social media and we come across a post of a caravan of cars being prompted to go to our downtown and loot.”
Along the Magnificent Mile, people were seen going in and out of stores carrying bags full of merchandise as well as at a bank, the Chicago Tribune reported, and as the crowd grew vehicles dropped off more people in the area.
On streets throughout the downtown area, empty cash drawers from stores were strewn about and ATMs were ripped open.
Stores miles from downtown were also ransacked, with parking lots littered with glass and items from inside the stores. Clothes hangers and boxes that once contained television sets and other electronics were seen – evidence that thieves had taken racks of clothes and removed them from the hangers.
“This was obviously very orchestrated,” the Reverend Michael Pfleger, a prominent Roman Catholic priest and activist on the city’s South Side, told WBBM-TV as cameras panned the downtown area.
One officer was seen slumped against a building, several arrests were made and a rock was thrown at a police vehicle, the newspaper said. Police worked early Monday to disperse the crowds.
There was a large police presence on Monday morning outside an Apple store located north of Chicago’s downtown area. Blocks away, debris was strewn in parking lots in front of a Best Buy and a large liquor store.
Train and bus service into downtown was temporarily suspended at the request of public safety officials, the Chicago Transit Authority said on Twitter.
Bridges over the Chicago River were lifted, preventing travel to and from the downtown area, and Illinois State Police blocked some expressway ramps into downtown. Access was being restored later Monday morning.
Chicago and its suburbs, like many other cities, saw unrest following the death of Floyd. Chicago’s central business district and its commercial areas were shut down for several days after violence erupted and stores were damaged in the wake of marches protesting against Floyd’s custodial death.
Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died after a white officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.
In the Sunday shooting in Englewood, police said in a statement that they responded about 2:30pm (18:00 GMT) on Sunday to a call about a person with a gun and tried to confront someone matching his description in an alley. He fled from officers on foot and shot at officers, police said.
Officers returned fire, wounding him, and a gun was recovered, police said. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and three officers involved also were taken to a hospital for observation, the statement said.
More than an hour after the shooting, police and witnesses said a crowd faced off with police after someone reportedly told people that police had shot and wounded a child. That crowd eventually dispersed.