On June 1, 2020, thousands of protesters began marching after the death of George Floyd. As reports of police officers using aggressive force on protesters skyrocketed, people began to loot. Nearly two months later, looting has made a comeback in Chicago.
Looters targeted Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast, and other northside neighborhoods. Though most protesters were peaceful, the news reported heavily on those who were not. Until now, many Chicago residents did not know that protests were still happening. However, this reality has become harmful as protesters have become synonymous with looters.
The looting that occurred recently was in response to an officer shooting a young black man in West Englewood on August 9, 2020. According to police reports, lootings were the result of misinformation about the event.
Misinformation and Social Media
The young man shot by officers was 20 years old and appeared to have a weapon. Some reports suggested there was not a weapon and this was another story of police brutality. No details of the shooting were confirmed. As a result, people began to retaliate by looting.
At the time of the incident, some protesters and community activists were present in West Englewood. However, activists and protesters present were advocating for community-led justice groups rather than more police. However, this is not a new idea. Following the death of George Floyd, many individuals began advocating for this once again.
The aftermath of the looting in downtown Chicago led to raised bridges and concerns about Chicago’s future. Businesses on the Northside feel obligated to take their business elsewhere. Despite Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s threatening words, Northside residents no longer feel safe. They are afraid to rebuild and fear if they do rebuild, customers will not come back. The potential damage this could bring to the city is frightening.
What Is Causing the Looting?
Additionally, Mayor Lightfoot believes the lack of accountability in the justice system to be the cause of the continuous looting. Though city Ald. Brian Hopkins believes the Mayor’s response is the problem. Referring to his constituents Hopkins stated, “They can’t walk out the door without risking their lives.”
The questions are being asked. However, city officials are not giving the right answers. Rather than take charge of the problem and listen to protesters’ concerns, officials contend they are criminals. The source of looting is the result of a lack of accountability. However, it is not a lack of accountability from citizens, looters, and protesters, but law enforcement.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, reports of police officers using force skyrocketed. Hopkins says residents fear going outside their homes because of the looters but this statement fails to acknowledge that this is the same fear residents in the south and west sides of Chicago have had for years.
Moreover, the high crime rates in the South and West side communities are due to a lack of resources. When these people can access affordable healthcare, jobs, and other luxuries found in the Northside of Chicago, the looting will cease.
Accountability May Be the Solution
These communities need to feel included in the cities decisions. As of now, more police have been placed in already over-policed neighborhoods, police brutality is continuing unchecked, and residents do not feel safe. Arresting those who are already underprivileged does not send the message of solidarity, it sends a message if fear. When fear is introduced, people act irrationally.
On the other hand, this does not mean criminal activity should not be held accountable. What this means is that officials must listen to community activists, place essential resources in South and West side communities, and listen to all residents’ concerns, not just the concerns of those with money, power, and privilege. Accountability must be upheld on all sides, including law enforcement.
Unfortunately, this will take time to implement and officials seem to be looking for quick and easy solutions.
Opinion News by Reginae Echols
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
NBC News: Looting in Chicago after George Floyd’s death ruined our store. We still support the protests.
CBS Chicago: TRAFFIC ALERT: Streets, Bridges Closing As Downtown Chicago Shut Down Amid Looting, Unrest
Chicago Sun-Times: Second round of looting puts Chicago at a crossroads
Featured Image Courtesy of Stephen Hogan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Alek S.’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License