'We Will Stand Strong And United': Mayor Lightfoot Responds To Weekend Unrest, Shares Plans To Rebuild

"We will not let our city be in shambles," Lightfoot said.

WBBM Newsradio Staff
June 01, 2020 - 11:46 am

    CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot joined Chicago police, fire, emergency management, and other city agencies on Monday to provide an update following weekend unrest.

    "It was obviously an exceedingly difficult, and at times, scary weekend for all of us. And I know many Chicagoans are feeling like I am, which is wary and uncertain. But we will get through this because we must and we can," Lightfoot said Monday at a news conference. 

    "I made a lot of hard decisions over the weekend, and I know some of them were challenging for people. But I also have hope today on how we will move forward and heal as a city, together. First, I want you to see just a sample of the public servants who have been working hard literally night and day to make sure we are responding to the needs of residents all across the city. These are incredible public servants and community leaders who are at the ready to help, and they have been."

    Lightfoot highlighted Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Richard C. Ford II, Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Commissioner Rosa Escareno, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, Department of Buildings for the City of Chicago Commissioner Judy Frydland, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner John F. Tully, OEMC Executive Director Richard Guidice, and Malcolm Crawford of the Austin African American Business Networking Association. 

    Following the damage and violence that the city saw Saturday in the downtown and Loop area, Mayor Lightfoot made the necessary decision of limiting access to only residents, businesses, police officers and essential workers that live and operate and are employed in those areas. The Mayor said she made that decision to assess to damage in that area, but also acknowledges that South and West side neighborhoods have also been targeted by same destructive forces. 

    "That effort continued yesterday evening and will continue today as we've strategically deployed resources in our neighborhoods, focusing on their commercial corridors, which have been targets of looting and violence and serve as the economic lifeblood of so many communities, particularly on the South and the West sides. In addition to our public safety personnel, we will be deploying and moving personnel from our Streets and Sanitation department, our water department, our department of transportation, our buildings and business affairs and consumer protection into our neighborhoods on the South and West sides to assess the damage, to assist small businesses and local chambers of the commerce, so that we can start the process now of rebuilding our key commercial corridors in our neighborhoods.

    "We will be deploying Mayor's office personnel to assist in these cleanup efforts. And I want to be absolutely clear on this: there is no way, no way, that we would ever let any neighborhood receive more resources and protection than any others. Ever. And that certainly didn't happen over the course of the weekend. What we saw last night was completely heart-wrenching for me personally, and I know for many of you that I have spoken to and heard from. The updates I received all day and night from our aldermen, from local community leaders about the attacks on local store fronts, and particularly our small, black-owned businesses was nothing short of devastating. I know that, for many of you, your life's work went into developing these businesses and commercial centers. I know that for many of you, your blood, sweat, and tears went into recruiting businesses to come support the vibrancy of your communities. And I want you to hear from me: not only do I know that, I and we will be your partner in rebuilding. We will not let our city be in shambles."

    Lightfoot said when she appeared on the West Side last year to announced the city's INVEST South/West initiative, $750 million city dollars, "that I committed to make sure we were reversing the decades of neglect and lack of investment in these communities, my resolve was certain and clear." It is no less, no less now, Lightfoot said, and if anything, she said she is even more determined, because she knows the need is even more great after what the city has seen over the last 24 and 48 hours. 

    "We will rebuild and the City of Chicago government will lead those rebuilding efforts. We are not going to leave our neighborhoods behind. That will not happen on my watch."

    Lightfoot said she heard people saying the city's services were not equally distributed on Sunday, or that the city chose to protect downtown, at the expense of other communities.

    "Putting aside how deeply offensive that is for me as a black woman, for the superintendent as a black man, and these other officers of high rank who grew up in these neighborhoods and communities and proudly serve them every single day, the fact of the matter is exactly the opposite was true. The strategy yesterday was to add, add more personnel and services to the neighborhoods on the South and West side. And that's what happened. The fact is that the violence that we saw and the looting that we saw spread like a wildfire," Lightfoot said.

    "Let me just share with you how I know this is to true." According to the Mayor, on Sunday, the 911 center received 65,000 calls in one 24-hour period - about 50,000 more than what the city normally receives in a typical day.

    "Of course, nothing is typical about these times. And to be clear, as the day wore on, every half hour there were 1,000 calls every 30 minutes. And in some periods, in the late afternoon and evening, those calls reached over 2,000 calls per 30 minutes. All far exceeding normal call volumes. And between Friday and Sunday, there were over 10,000 calls for looting alone," Lightfoot said.

    "Be clear: we, the police department, was responding to these calls as best they could with a significant amount of additional resources on the South and the West side. The challenge was it was everywhere. Everywhere. So, if we had a police department three times the size it would have been difficult to keep up with the calls for service yesterday. Now, I know that's cold comfort, but I want to be clear that we didn't stand by and let the South and the West side burn as, unfortunately, some people are propagating. That's just not true. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, not just for law enforcement, but for all of city government, and also for all of you.

    "As we have been saying over the last couple days, we need all people of good will  - from the faith community, from community leaders, to stand up and rise with us and not allow the criminal element to overwhelm the hard work and sacrifice of so many all over this city. We cannot allow that to happen and we will not allow that to happen. We will come together, as a community, linked arm in arm, faiths joined together, to make sure that we speak with one voice; that in Chicago, we will stand strong and united together."

    The Mayor went on to talk about the specifics that residents can expect on Monday, including street closures along commercial neighborhoods, in designated hot spots, so that the city can allow for businesses to be boarded up and debris to be cleaned. The street closures will be in conjunction with ward superintendents and aldermen, Lightfoot said. CTA trains and buses resumed Monday morning; however, transit service will continue to bypass stops located near the Central Business District. Residents in need of the latest information can visit the CTA's website.

    Mayor Lightfoot said she asked Dr. Arwady to attend Monday morning's press conference to speak to the other danger that Chicagoans cannot lose sight of, and that is, "the fact of what we have seen over these last few days is people abandoning the very public health guidance, social distancing, staying home, that we have taken and made progress during the midst of this pandemic. I have said this before, and I will say it again: COVID-19 has not disappeared from Chicago. It is very much our present.

    "And we worry about the thousands of people that have been out in the streets over the last few days. Please, in exercising your First Amendment rights or if you were out for any other reason, you have now put yourself at risk. And we need you to isolate yourself. We need you to think about and be conscious of whether or not you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. God forbid that we see a spike that overwhelms our healthcare resources, just as we saw light at the end of the tunnel. But we need now to be careful and take precautions."

    Lightfoot then took a moment to applaud the work of the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Fire Department. 

    "Bodies are wary. People are tired. But you've been doing heroic work. Now, there have been some reports of misconduct on the part of our personnel. If that is so, we will investigate and we will get to the bottom of it. We will not spare any resource to do so. If you believe you've been mistreated by police, I urge you to file a complaint. You can reach COPA, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, by dialing 311. We are not gonna abandon our values around police reform and accountability and holding officers responsible...Now is the time for us to double down on training around constitutional policing and understanding that respectful, constitutional engagement of the people we are all sworn to serve, use the most powerful tool beyond your gun and badge. And I believe in my heart that the vast majority of police officers understand that, but if someone has crossed the line, we will hold them accountable, even in this moment. No excuses."

    The Mayor then addressed residents: "To our residents, I want you to know we are doing absolutely everything to protect you and keep you safe. To be sure, it's been challenging. But our resolve is no less. Our resolve is complete. And we will get the job done. What we have experienced these past few days has unsettling, and devastating...But I have never lost my hope, and I urge you to hold on to that hope. That's what will propel us forward and help us heal. There's not a single person here in Chicago or across the country who's not been affected by what we've been seeing and reading in the news.

    "I had an exchange this morning with one of the lawyers for George Floyd, who is a personal friend and someone I know. And he said to me, 'Mayor, I am committed to making sure that we write the wrong - not only for Mr. Floyd and his family, and that is true, but also for the decades of wrongs that have been committed.' I join him in that fight. That is who I am. That is how I got here. We are committed and united and repulsed in what we saw in Minneapolis.

    "We have a lot of work to do to heal the wrongs, and we will do that together. We need to confront and reconcile this anguish, and I promise you that we will here in Chicago. But at this moment, right now, our focus has to be on the physical safety of our residents, our families, and our businesses. The violence and destruction that we have seen has been disgraceful to our city and to the meaning of this moment. But above all, our residents and our business owners have personally and deeply been affected, and we need you to stay focused and be with us in this fight, so that we can recover who we are as a city and move forward. We can and we will rise above this moment, but only by staying together, only by wrapping our arms around each other, only by talking and practicing love, and showing hope and compassion and empathy for our neighbors. 

    "This is what has gotten us through this pandemic, and we cannot abandon those values now - even in the face of this hardship that has devastated neighborhoods. We have to lean into our faith. We have to lean into our values and our sense of community to bring back what we have lost and be able to move forward. I am committed to that, and I hope you are, and I hope that you will join me and the tens of thousands of others, who have already started the process of cleaning up, boarding up, and thinking about the promise that always comes with a new day."

    Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown announced that there were 699 arrests just Sunday, primarily for looting - 461 of those people were on the South and West sides. Over 64 guns were recovered, and 132 officers were injured Sunday. There were 48 shootings and 17 people killed.

    "Here's an example of our strategy as it relates to the looting seen in our neighborhoods. To the untrained eye, I've heard reports of officers just standing by, watching, as people loot our businesses and our neighborhoods, primarily, as I mentioned before, on the South and West side. And that untrained eye would say, 'Why don't cops do something?' I was on the ground, in the field, and I watched these looters strategically do looting in one area only to try to flank our officers on the back and hit the target they intended. I was at police headquarters; there was a store, an electronics store on the corner, and this was used by a crowd that came up to headquarters intending on destroying that facility and burning our cars. Instead, our officers sent a smaller contingent to the store to repel those looting while our line officers held back a crowd that was trying to get into police headquarters...Some of the intended targets were our officers. We had an officer who had a heart attack yesterday. We had an officer who had a broken arm yesterday...They get drawn into the crowd without enough officers to support them, and then they get beat and pummeled..."

    Brown said he's heard people saying they wouldn't have had the patience that's been shown by Chicago Police officers. He thanks all the officers who worked last weekend.

    "This is a noble profession, and those who are sworn to an oath to conduct themselves in the most professional way deserve to wear that badge. Those who don't will be held accountable. And that is clear," he said.

    While on the protest line in the field supporting my officers yesterday, there was a small group of peaceful protesters who came to express their First Amendment rights. It was very emotional. It became emotional for me. And they said one thing that I want to share with you. This one young black female who couldn't have been more than 21-years old kept repeating to the officers standing in line, 'Say his name.' Meaning George Floyd. It was a chant that just built and built and built, 'Say his name.' She meant, 'Acknowledge Mr. Floyd's death, unjustly death. Murder. 'Say his name.' And what I'm embarrassed is I was out in the field, I was holding the line, supporting my officers, I whispered his name. When she chanted, 'Say his name,' I silently thought, 'Mr. Floyd was murdered. We saw it on live TV. And I'm part of the profession that those officers in Minneapolis painted with a broad brush.' But today, publicly, I want to say his name as a police leader of the second-largest police department in the country. Mr. George Floyd. We grieve with you and your family. We are embarrassed by the cops in Minneapolis' use of force, asphyxiating you on the streets of Minneapolis. We stand with Mr. Floyd's family.

    "But to the rioters and looters, you disgraced the name of Mr. Floyd by your actions. Hate can never drive out hate. Evil can never drive out evil. Two wrongs can never make a right. An eye for an eye leaves both of us blind. We will enforce these laws in this city. We will hold you accountable. What you've done in the cover of night will be brought to the light, and we will pursue justice," Brown said.

    Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady spoke about her concerns after weekend protests. 

    "I am concerned that this weekend — not just related to the protests, but related to a lot of people gathering in Chicago for a lot of reasons — we may see ourselves take a step backwards down the line against COVID here in Chicago. And that's because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus does not care what else is going on in the city. And nothing has changed, unfortunately, related to COVID-19. We still do not have a treatment. We still do not have a cure. We do not have a vaccine. COVID-19 still takes every opportunity it can to spread. And I'll remind you that still here in Chicago, we are seeing hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 every day. And we're seeing that particularly in settings where people are unable to keep a six-foot distance or unable to wear the face coverings that serve some protection for yourself, but importantly, help protect others. If you've been in any kind of gathering this weekend, whether it's protest-related, whether it's socially related, whether you've understandably reached out for contact at this time that has been so difficult for Chicago and the country, I do want to let you know that you are at increased risk for having contracted COVID-19. And my ask is that if you have been in groups — especially if you were not able to keep that six-foot distance and wear the face covering — I ask that as much as possible for the next 14 days you self-quarantine. And that's because it takes up to 14 days from a time when you were potentially infected with COVID for the disease to show itself."