Chicago authorities are limiting access to the city’s Central Business District and Loop after businesses suffered widespread damage during protests on Saturday night. The city announced Sunday that various streets and transportation routes to the business district will be temporarily reduced.
The Chicago Police Department and other city agencies will reduce access to the Central Business District and Loop “to only employees whose businesses are located within the designated boundaries, individuals who reside in the surrounding area and residents engaged in essential activities,” reported Chicago Tribune, citing a news release from the mayor’s office.
Chicago Transit Authority is also cancelling its transportation services in the downtown area due to protests, many of which turned violent, over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. Most of its trains and buses coming in and out of the Loop are temporarily suspended “for public safety reasons,” according to the release.
“The city is working closely with the organizers of rallies and protests scheduled to take place within the area this afternoon to provide an alternative, optional route for marches to peacefully and safely return in Chicago,” the mayor’s office said in the statement.
These measures come as Mayor Lori Lightfoot affirmed that the city’s curfew will remain in effect on Sunday night. She has also requested Illinois Gov. Jay Pritzker to mobilize the National Guard to support local police forces in anticipation of further protests. Pritzker said 375 National Guard members will be sent in to “primarily provide perimeter line support” and will not be patrolling the city.
“It’s not an easy decision to call in the Guard,” Lightfoot said during a Sunday morning press conference. “The National Guard obviously has certain optics to it, may come with a certain level of equipment and presence. We don’t want to squander that resource and make sure that we only use it when truly there is a time of need.”
Chicago Police Department’s superintendent David Brown said 240 people were arrested for looting and vandalism during Saturday’s protests. He said the violence left 20 officers hospitalized, with at least two requiring surgery.
“Let me be clear, last night was not a protest,” said Brown, “People who came downtown were not there to exercise their First Amendment right. These people arrived in the central business district prepared to damage and steal. Who brings a hammer to a protest? Nobody.”
“We will not sacrifice our local democracy to lawlessness. We will not,” he said.