Chicago, IL

Illinois National Guard Activated Prior to Chauvin Verdict and Mayor Warns Potential Looters, “Don’t Push Us”

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Concern over the response to the Chauvin verdict increases in Chicago as tension has mounted in recent days with several shooting incidents including the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

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Illinois Governor and Chicago Mayor try to prevent riots like those that happened last summer, after the Chauvin verdict is read

Many downtown and other area Chicago businesses were already boarded up early Tuesday morning, in anticipation of the Chauvin verdict. Business owners began taking action as soon as the Jury in the case was sent to deliberate Monday.

At the request of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker deployed 125 Illinois National Guard members to stand by to support the Chicago Police Department beginning Tuesday. This morning Mayor Lightfoot announced that the National Guard had been placed on 36 hour stand by in case they were needed to control unrest in the city when the Chauvin verdict came back.

In a written statement, the Governor said, “The Illinois National Guard will carry out a limited mission to help manage street closures and will not interfere with peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights, much the same role as Guard members played in previous deployments."

At that time, the jury was still deliberating, and there was no indication of when they would reach a decision. Now with the verdict in and scheduled to be read this afternoon, Governor Pritzker has also announced that in addition to activating the National Guard, he has assigned members of the Illinois State Police to support the Chicago Police Department.

The Chicago Office Of Emergency Management is also monitoring the situation and already has several measures in place to protect people and critical businesses, and prevent the situation from turning into an all-out riot as it did over the previous summer.

There is a lot of concern in Chicago over the response to the Chauvin verdict, regardless of what that verdict is. Tensions in the city have escalated since last summer which saw extended protests, demonstrations and rioting over the death of George Floyd due to several police shootings in Chicago and elsewhere, including the recent shooting of Adam Toledo, a 13 year old shot and killed by a Chicago Police Officer. All this was set against a backdrop of the stress that already existed due to the pandemic.

As the city of Chicago prepares for the reading of the verdict, Mayor Lightfoot warned potential looters ready to take advantage of the situation, saying, “We are prepared and we are ready to arrest and bring to prosecution anyone who would dare to take the dreams of our small businesses by looting.” She added that officials and those in charge of protecting the city had learned important lessons from last year’s demonstrations, when the Chicago Police Department was “outflanked and underprepared” for riots and looting, according to Inspector General Joe Ferguson. In his analysis of the mistakes made during the riots Ferguson accused Chicago’s mayor of rejecting Pritzker’s early offer to deploy the National Guard to assist overwhelmed and exhausted Chicago Police officers.

“My responsibility is to learn from every experience that we have and make sure that we are better prepared because of that learning — and we are,” Lightfoot said.

Several groups including Black Lives Matter, Good Kids Mad City and other community activists held a news conference Tuesday to demand that Mayor Lightfoot call off the National Guard. They stated that the mayor’s request to Pritzker is additional proof that she “commands a military operation” and condones police brutality against Black and Brown communities.

Lightfoot denied the charges and stood her ground.

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Chicago, IL
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