CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday responded to critics who said the city did more to protect downtown than South and West Side neighborhoods where looting and violence “spread like wildfire.”
“We did not stand by and let the South and West Sides burn as some are propagating,” the mayor said.
On Sunday, three aldermen sent the mayor a letter requesting 3,000 more National Guard members be dispatched in neighborhoods on the South and West Side where there were “too few police” as “armed vandals looted.”
“The people of the west and south sides have already been severely impacted by Covid-19, by disinvestment and by the kind of police brutality that killed George Floyd. That the stores that provide the food and medicine that we rely on, are now being attacked by marauders who wish to take advantage of the real and righteous grievances expressed by the peaceful protests–is totally unacceptable and must be stopped. Yes, to the protection of the city’s central area but also, if not first, let’s protect the people and neighborhoods that make our city what it is,” the letter from Alds. Anthony Beale, Ray Lopez and Brian Hopkins stated.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford told Block Club Chicago that police appeared to have “thrown their hands up” rather than protecting businesses on the West Side.
Lightfoot said, as a black woman, she was offended by the allegations that her administration would prioritize protecting downtown over poor minority communities.
“The strategy yesterday was to add more personnel and services to the neighborhoods on the South and Wests Side. And that’s what happened,” the mayor said. “The fact is the violence we saw and the looting … spread like wildfire.”
Officials said 911 operators on Sunday were flooded with 50,000 more calls than a typical day.
“We, the police department, was responding to calls as best they could with a significant amount of additional resources. … The challenge was it was everywhere. Everywhere,” Lightfoot said.
On Sunday, police made 699 arrests — 461 of those arrests were for looting on the South and West Sides. Overall, that was double the number of arrests made downtown Saturday when protests of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police turned violent and resulted in looting.
Police Supt. David Brown said officers recovered 64 guns on Sunday and responded to 48 shootings that left 17 people dead. In all, 132 police officers were injured Sunday, Brown said.
Lightfoot said that starting Monday the city will shut down some neighborhood business districts as city workers from several departments, including the mayor’s staff, are deployed to take stock of damage caused by looters and vandals, and help business owners and local chambers of commerce to begin rebuilding what was lost immediately.
“I want you to hear from me, not only do I know that I, and, we will be your partner in your rebuilding. We will not let our city be in shambles. We will rebuild and the city of Chicago government will lead those rebuilding efforts,” Lightfoot said. “We are not going to leave our neighborhoods behind. That will not happen on my watch.”
This article originally appeared on the Chicago Patch