The toll the looting took, by the numbers
Category: News & PoliticsVia: s • 2 weeks ago • 3 comments
In the first data-driven examination of last year’s looting and mayhem across Chicago, the Tribune on Thursday documented the extent of the damage , physically and emotionally, on the city and its business owners whose properties were targeted in the first wave of unrest. It is a stunning reminder of the overnight mayhem Chicago experienced — and could again. The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, spurred angry but peaceful protests across the nation — at first. In Chicago, marches against police brutality erupted into wild and chaotic scenes of smash-and-grab thefts, fires and violence. The devastation has not been forgotten a year later.
The Tribune documented more than 2,100 businesses that were robbed or damaged from May 29 to June 4. Let that sink in a minute: Thousands of businesses smashed, tagged or pillaged over the course of one week. For 710 of them that could be measured, damage estimates rose to more than $165 million. Fifteen people were shot and killed in acts of violence linked to the unrest, along with 53 people injured in protest-related shootings in the time period examined.
The Tribune found 157 offenders in Chicago were charged with felonies, far fewer than State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s tally which included incidents outside the city. But considering the damage done that spring and the number of looters who took part, it is a remarkable failure so few faced penalty. Even months later, on Aug. 30 following another looting wave, an attack at a Far South Side pancake house during a crowded Sunday brunch left five shot , one dead, in a dispute over stolen merchandise.
And despite a defensive Mayor Lori Lightfoot who repeatedly has claimed resources were not poured into protecting downtown at the expense of Chicago’s neighborhoods, emails obtained by the Tribune revealed that some police districts were unable to respond to calls for help at all because available officers had been sent downtown.
Mostly, the Tribune investigation documented what we knew but needed to be reminded about: the hardships of business owners, even now, who were helpless in trying to stop the breaking and entering, the theft, the destruction of their livelihoods — and many in neighborhoods already struggling with abandonment. “I thought, ‘I’m a Black-owned business, they’re not going to bother me,’” Roseland pharmacy owner Howard Bolling told the Tribune .
He was wrong. Looters on May 31, 2020, descended on his South Michigan Avenue store and stole nearly all of his supply of prescriptions and medications.
More stories of loss and violence:
- More than 60 cars were stolen from two South Side auto dealerships.
- Police said two people were shot, one fatally, after trying to save a grocery store on the West Side from looters.
- Two men were shot while waiting for a traffic signal near Rush Street where looters attacked high-end stores and restaurants.
- A family-owned nail salon in West Pullman suffered $150,000 in damages when a fire broke out during a looting spree. “Just seeing everything ruined, it just kind of breaks your heart because you would never expect that to happen to you,” a family member told the Tribune.
- Roughly 300,000 instant Lottery tickets were stolen.
- Seventy-one buildings were set on fire.
On one hand, the mayhem of last year seems almost hard to grasp. On the other, we lived it. We remember.
Some of the businesses ruined — many on the South and West sides still boarded up, abandoned and showing signs of damage — won’t be coming back. What began as legitimate protest over the police murder of George Floyd ended with what is likely to be permanent economic loss to struggling areas of Chicago.
Ariel Atkins was the Black Lives Matter Chicago organizer who encouraged the looting in August as it unfolded, saying: “I don’t care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store because that makes sure that person eats. That makes sure that person has clothes. That is reparations. Anything they want to take, take it because these businesses have insurance.”
She was as wrong then as she is today.
In a June 2020 op-ed from Chicago-based journalist Mark Guarino after he watched a West Side Dollar Tree being looted and burned, he wrote:
“Looting is a destroyer in these neighborhoods. I agree that Gucci can rebuild. And Gucci customers can move on. But you know who can’t? Jerry Winfrey, 54, the caretaker for his mother. The Dollar Tree looting and fire now means he has nowhere to buy groceries. He has no car. The nearest Jewel might as well be on Mars. ‘Can’t go to the grocery store no more,’ he says. With Dollar Tree gone, ‘it’s gonna be rough. It’s a tragedy. It’s horrible, destroying things we need,’ he says.
“You know who agrees? Tamara Collins, 34, who worked as the manager of the Dollar Tree for three years. Tonight she’s jobless.”
Chicago was a city forced to draw its bridges to protect itself from roving criminals multiple times last summer. The destruction may have seemed more anecdotal than data-driven — until now.
The failures were multidimensional, from lack of police coordination to an unprepared police superintendent and mayor, to a state’s attorney who encouraged “presumption of dismissal” for lower-level charges after the first wave of looting in May. Foxx also instructed her prosecutors on offenses including aggravated battery to a police officer and mob action to require police body camera footage and proof offenders’ actions were “intentional and/or malicious in nature” to proceed, according to the Sun-Times in June 2020 .
The numbers from the May-June looting documented by the Tribune show how badly that strategy went — and likely encouraged more destruction in August.
Throughout last summer, the entire Chicago region was put in harm’s way. Failures were too many to count. Those failures, the violence, won’t ever be forgotten, particularly by families in neighborhoods that came under siege, particularly by small businesspeople who saw years of entrepreneurial hard work and dreams crumble.