Yesterday I wrote about Sunday May 31 which turned out to be the deadliest single day of violence in Chicago’s history going back to at least 1961. On that one day 18 people were killed. While that was happening Mayor Lori Lightfoot was on a conference call with aldermen, all of whom were complaining about the devestation and violence they were seeing in their wards. A recording of that call wound up in the hands of WTTW which published a report last Friday. The discussion on the call was very blunt. Some aldermen were crying, worried that businesses would never come back after the looting.
The recording begins with Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) wondering how she could convince businesses like Walmart and CVS to rebuild on the South Side after the destruction.
“It’s like, what are we going to have left in our community?” Harris asks her colleagues before answering herself. “Nothing.”…
“I feel like I am at ground zero,” Harris responded. “My major business district is shattered. Why would Walmart or CVS come back to our communities?”
Five minutes into the call, Lightfoot finally chimed in saying police were overwhelmed and were involved in “armed combat” with looters.
Lightfoot said officers were in “armed combat” with those intent on committing crimes on the West Side only making progress after bringing in “heavy equipment and stronger pepper spray.”
Lightfoot said a crowd of 30-40 people gathered outside a clothing store near 111th Street and Michigan Avenue as a “dude with a sledgehammer” broke into the store to allow it to be looted.
“I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen s–t like this before, not in Chicago,” Lightfoot said.
An Alderman named Susan Sadlowski-Garza from the 10th ward begged the mayor for help saying, “My ward is a s–t show. They are shooting at the police.” Then she began to cry on the call saying she was “scared.” Mayor Lightfoot responded, “This is a massive, massive problem. People are just f—–g lawless right now.”
At one point Alderman Raymond Lopez said gang members were threatening to shoot looters and demanded to know what the Mayor’s plan was for restoring order. The mayor replied that he was “100% full of s–t.” Alderman Lopez responded to that by saying, “Well, f–k you then.”
Alderman Lopez would later go on television and claim that Mayor Lightfoot had intentionally worked with gang members to act as a protective force in certain wards. When challenged on this on Twitter, Lopez refused to back down.
“Who are you gonna believe me or your own yes?”
100s of videos. alds telling mayor how happy “ members of the community w/ questionable backgrounds” stepped up. Who in their right mind thought this was a good strategy?
Oh wait….. https://t.co/UxglQ2WWPQ
— Ald. Raymond Lopez (@RLopez15thWard) June 3, 2020
There doesn’t seem to be any evidence the mayor condoned or sanctioned anything like that but there are plenty of videos on Twitter and YouTube showing people identified as gang members chasing black people out of Chicago neighborhoods over that weekend. And this tweet from a Fox News contributor got a lot of attention:
A cop friend just texted me that the “Latin Kings” sent a message to the cops in his town that they would “take care” of the rioters and to not come around. Are we in an episode of SOA??
— Johnny (Joey) Jones (@Johnny_Joey) June 1, 2020
So it sounds like the gangs did see themselves as policing their own streets. Maybe the CPD decided not to disabuse them of this notion when they were already overwhelmed. In any case, the chaos on the street was reflected in the anger and concern on that conference call with city leaders. No one was prepared for what happened and as Lightfoot has said several times, even a police force 3 or 4 times as large as Chicago’s current one couldn’t have responded effectively to the violence that broke out that weekend.
If you want to listen to the full recording it’s here. This local news report focuses in on the argument between Mayor Lightfoot and Alderman Lopez.