By Steven Dahlman • Loop North News
Of the hundreds of businesses in Chicago damaged during protests that turned violent last Friday and Saturday, many were in the Loop. Chicago Loop Alliance says the cost to repair and replace merchandise is in the millions of dollars.
Hardest hit were the Loop, River North, and Streeterville, part of a downtown area that was preparing for a cautious reopening on Wednesday after being closed since March – either partially or completely – due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a difficult time for so many reasons,” said Michael Edwards, president and CEO of Chicago Loop Alliance. “We understand the frustration behind this weekend’s protests and the complicated nature of these types of events.”
Edwards says his organization will continue providing security patrols and its Chicago Loop Ambassadors will continue cleaning State Street and assisting visitors.
There was damage to public property, as well, such as planters, the Lightscape art installation, and The Gateway, located in the middle of State Street just south of Wacker Drive.
Cleanup started on Saturday night, with the City of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation Department cleaning debris and the Building Department boarding damaged windows. Businesses not damaged were encouraged by city officials to board windows on their own as a precaution.
Between a security perimeter around the downtown area, suspension of CTA train and bus service, bridges over the Chicago River being raised, and an overnight curfew – punishable by fines and arrest – non-essential movement was flattened on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced access to the central business district will be mostly restored on Wednesday. Select closures and service interruptions, along with the nightly curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., will remain in effect until further notice.
“Our city is badly wounded and our hearts are heavy,” wrote 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins in an email to constituents on Sunday.
According to Hopkins, 68 city-owned vehicles were destroyed or rendered inoperative and more than 20 police officers were injured seriously enough to require medical attention.
Hopkins told his constituents that graffiti removal is a “secondary priority.” The vandalism, he says, “is so extensive it will take some time for graffiti removal to be completed.”
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, meanwhile, encouraged residential buildings downtown to lock their outside doors after 9:00 p.m.
Neighborhood groups support protest, condemn vandalism
Rich Gamble, chairman of the board of directors of The Magnificent Mile Association, called the damage “a devastating blow to our district as most buildings were tagged, many windows were broken, and there was widespread looting along North Michigan Avenue, Oak Street, and beyond.”
Mike Riordan, president of River North Residents Association, says his organization is “heartbroken” by the damage.
“We have been shaken to our core by the lawlessness and destruction that we witnessed in our beloved neighborhood last night,” said Riordan on Sunday. “We were uplifted, though, by rays of kindness and positivity as residents and volunteers came out and joined with city departments and business owners in the cleanup effort today.”
Deborah Gershbein, president of Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, said peaceful protests were “highjacked by criminals with the very worst intentions.”
“We support peaceful protest and commend those who attempted to keep it peaceful, but civil unrest by destroying and defacing property, looting, and throwing objects at our first responders is totally unacceptable criminal behavior,” she said. “These actions have severely damaged our Streeterville neighborhood and severely hamper the goal of civil rights for everyone.”