1 Month After Chicago Mayor Threatened to Shut Down Those Leaving Home, Look What City Is Doing for Rioters


At the beginning of May, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had a message to those who were in contravention of a stay-at-home order due to the novel coronavirus:

“We will shut you down.”

Now we’re at the end of the month and things have improved, but not by that much. This is why Mayor Lightfoot’s latest message is an interesting one: If you’re a Windy City resident protesting the death of George Floyd last week in Minnesota, the Chicago police will give you your space.

According to WBBM-TV, Chicago police officers have been instructed “no longer use force to disperse large gatherings” in the wake of Floyd’s death and the rioting that’s occurred since.

The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that the National Guard was to have a “limited presence.”

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“Until further notice, large gatherings will only be monitored until the crowd disperse on it’s own. Please ensure that all supervisors under your command are made aware of this instruction,” top police officials wrote in a Thursday memo, according to WBBM.

As of Sunday, there have been 240 arrests in Chicago, according to WMAQ, and one fatal shooting connected with the protests, in addition to six shootings involved.

Lightfoot, however, had requested the National Guard to be involved in keeping the peace.

“At the request of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I am activating the Illinois National Guard to support the City of Chicago in protecting our communities and keeping people safe,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said.

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“This is an immensely challenging moment for our city, our state, and our country, one born from decades and centuries of systemic racism. To those peacefully expressing the pain, fear, and rage of this moment, I hear you. Your voices matter. We must address the profound injustices in our society and bring about real and meaningful change.”

The Tribune reported the 375 National Guard members would “help manage street closures and will not interfere with peaceful protestors exercising their first amendment [sic] rights.”

This is an interesting tack to take inasmuch as First Amendment rights wouldn’t necessarily have been at the top of Lightfoot’s agenda before this.

We know a bit more about the novel coronavirus than we did at the beginning of the month and we know it’s a bit less dangerous than it was then.

However, it’s not so much less dangerous and so much more contained that we can let people out en masse to participate in protests that turn into riots, at least not if we couldn’t at the beginning of May.

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This is especially true when you consider that Cook County, Illinois — where Chicago is located — has the most confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus of any county in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University data. It’s third in terms of deaths.

What changed, then? The reason to go outside and assemble, that’s why.

George Floyd’s death is a national tragedy. Unfortunately, it’s a tragedy that’s easy to exploit, at least when it comes to Democrat politicians. No, they don’t like riots — although don’t dare call them riots.

What this means is that two months and change of destroying our economy so that we could get our COVID-19 numbers down and so we could flatten the curve are potentially out the window.

So this is what’s happening now. Earlier this month, Lightfoot — and, indeed, Chicago — was singing a different tune involving those congregating in contravention of a stay-at-home order.

“We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we have to, we will arrest you,” Lightfoot said May 2, according to WMAQ-TV. “Don’t make us treat you like a criminal, but if you act like a criminal and you violate the law and refuse to do what’s necessary to save lives in the middle of a pandemic, we will take you to jail. Period.”

“If you host a party, promote a party, or go to a party, we are not playing games. We mean business, and we will shut this down one way or another,” she added. “The time for educating people into compliance is over. Don’t be stupid. We’re watching you, and we’re going to take decisive action.”

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown made it clear this was also about reducing the body count.

“This isn’t something CPD is going to take lightly,” he said. “Staying at home means saving lives. Period. CPD will be on the lookout for gatherings large and small. If you are caught attending a party or congregating, you’re going to be asked to disperse.”

Where’s that rhetoric now, you may ask?

The novel coronavirus is no less deadly now than it was then. It’s also no less contagious. The difference is the city’s willingness to engage those breaking the rules.

“This chaos and destruction is not the right tactic to bring change,” Lightfoot said of the protests, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Just don’t ask her to shut it down, however.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture