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Pritzker implores protesters to “not force a difficult second rebuilding on our small businesses in the course of expressing your very justified pain”

Sunday, May 31, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Comments have been opened on this post.]

* Gov. JB Pritzker at a joint media briefing with Mayor Lori Lightfoot today…

I have activated 375 members of the Illinois National Guard to carry out a limited mission to assist local law enforcement with street closures. With regard to protesters who are exercising their first amendment rights. The guard has explicit direction not to interfere. They will operate under the most stringent parameters on use of force and General Neely has made those parameters abundantly clear to members of our National Guard.

Remember to pardon all transcription errors.

* More from the governor…

I also think it’s important to recognize that for much of the day yesterday. The protests here in Chicago were beautiful, massive and peaceful. That is as much a part of the story of what’s happening in this city in this country as anything else.

But late in the evening yesterday. The protests became about violence and damage, and that changes the conversation, away from the terrible acts that took George Floyd’s life away from the insidious racism that we all have a role in addressing.

It’s hard to find the right words to say today. The truth is, words alone don’t cut it anymore. But it’s my job in moments of crisis to be a voice for all of Illinois, to bear witness to pain and rage and anxiety and fear. And I see the pain of this moment written on the faces of my black friends and colleagues and staff.

I know that peacefully protesting is only one part of the expression of that pain. I know that they need to see action, which includes real criminal justice and policing reform, as well as a sustained economic investment in black and brown communities. I know that they need to see complete and full justice for George Floyd and his family. Something we have not seen yet. I know that one of my most sacred obligations as your governor is to take actions that build trust. And that takes time.

I also have an obligation to the state, and to the city of Chicago to keep people safe, even as we are dealing with this destructive pandemic. We have never curtailed people’s right to peacefully express themselves. But the virus is still out there.

And we cannot forget that we have communities all around the state that are desperately trying to recover from the damage that this virus has done. And I’m imploring people to not force a difficult second rebuilding on our small businesses in the course of expressing your very justified pain.

I know things are broken. It doesn’t make us weaker to acknowledge that. I know people are suffering. and it doesn’t diminish us to see that despair exists when things are broken and people are suffering, and then everyone refuses to acknowledge it. We cannot fix things that we decide not to see. So let’s go forward with our eyes wide open in our hearts committed to actions that back up our words.

* Mayor Lightfoot…

I want to be clear and emphasize what the governor himself just said, the Guard is here to support our police department. They will not be actively involved in policing or patrolling, but here as needed support.

* More Lightfoot…

To be clear, we all support and cherish the First Amendment and the right of us as residents to express ourselves in peaceful, nonviolent protest. I’ve certainly marched in a number of protests myself.

But we also have an obligation to make sure that when there are elements amongst the protesters, or others who joined the fray that don’t have respect for peaceful, nonviolent protest, but do have, as the design, the decision to bring hammers, shovels, bottles of urine, excrement, accelerates, as we saw throughout yesterday and into the evening. We do have an obligation also, to protect life and liberty, and property. And that’s exactly what we did, and we will continue to do.

We are a strong city, and a proud people. This is our home. This is the city that we built. And we will always protect our city because this is the home that will provide for all of us, for generations to come. This is a city that also cares for each other. I’ve seen that over and over again in countless ways. During the darkest moments of the pandemic called COVID-19.

* More Lightfoot…

And I want to take this opportunity to once again to thank our men and women of the Chicago Police Department who exercised incredible restraint all day, all night against a very difficult and traumatic circumstances. I want to thank the men and women of our fire department who responded and put out fires that arsonists had said, and I want to express my gratitude to our many other city employees. We’ve been working around the clock now for days to keep our residents and businesses safe and our steady running, and they include the members of the Office of Emergency Management communication, because Call Center has been working overtime, as well as our men and women in our department of streets and sanitation and buildings and water management, our Department of Transportation, and the CTA. And I want to thank other partners who are standing with us here today. Illinois State police state police gave heroic support to the men and women of the police department yesterday and I am grateful for their assistance. Yesterday and today I want to thank State’s Attorney, Kim Fox, whose office has been an invaluable partner with us as we navigate these very difficult times. The governor said this, he is right, this is a time for us to unite.

Even from the destruction that we’ve seen what I choose to focus on is not what we’ve lost, but what we can and will gain from this moment, as we come together as a city and move forward as we return our pain into the purpose and continue the hard but necessary work of building a more inclusive equitable and just city. This is who we are, Chicago, and we will not let a small element subvert us try though they might, we will stand and rise above this moment, we will support our people who want to raise their voices and peaceful protests, and we will never, never allow element to conflate that noble and righteous expression [audio cut out at that point]

* From National Guard General Neely’s remarks…

I stood at this podium many times over the last several weeks as we responded to COVID-19 as our doctors and our medical personnel swarmed into the city to stand up community based testing and to support the communities, some of these communities today that are most challenged, ensuring that underserved communities had the testing that they needed and ensuring that we were there on the frontlines supporting our medical providers. And today, that’s what we do.

Again, we come in to support law enforcement. to support peace, to support First Amendment rights to free speech. Some of us have soldiers in our [garbled], or civilian police officers, first responders, some are teachers, firefighters, factory workers, mechanic ,students. They come from a variety of backgrounds. We are a slice of Illinois. And we are a slice of the city.

We are here to carry out a limited mission at the request of Mayor Lightfoot and the governor to help manage street closures, so that those protesters will not interfere with those who want to exercise their First Amendment rights. In fact, we are committed to protecting every citizen to ensure their rights are are not stepped on whether they’re here in Illinois, or while deployed overseas.

Today, the first contingent of National Guard members have already arrived, they’re fully equipped to protect themselves to get for this mission, as well as against COVID-19, the risk associated with a current mission, have been addressed. Each soldier has been given strict guidelines as the governor outlined with the use of force. And we will not during this teleconference today discuss those guidelines or policies, and that’s really for the protection of our soldiers who are on the fruit on the street and to ensure their safety. We are here to help.

* Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx…

As someone who was born and raised in this city, born in one of the toughest neighborhoods in this city, a community that was fair to say had been on the margins, who had seen all of the inequities that we are talking about this week, driving into the city with a piece of hope in my heart when I saw the skyline and my heart broke when I saw the boards on our windows. This is a tough day.

* Foxx on George Floyd…

When I looked at that video, and I made the mistake of looking at the whole thing, and I watched that man with his knee in that man’s neck hand in pocket. In the casual disregard for his life in broad daylight, while being filmed without a concern in the world as to what would happen to him that we will be inclined to think that it’s just the murder of George Floyd that has our streets filled. What I remember feeling in that moment was the casualness of all of the things that we have experienced in this country that we were dealing with, with COVID-19, the casual acceptance of racial disparities in health care that when we looked at the work that has been done in the last few months to deal with this pandemic and the news came out that African Americans were disproportionately dying and Latinos, the casual acceptance that that’s part of what happens with underlying health conditions, because the casual acceptance that we have people living in communities that don’t have access to health care. And we just accept the casual acceptance that those who were losing their jobs in the midst of this pandemic are frontline workers are essential workers were black and Latino and going into grocery stores and being clerks and being the least paid we casually accept that.

We casually accept with the hand in our pocket that the last time there were major riots in the city of Chicago in the 60s on the west side where we’ve seen burnt out buildings that remain an economic disinvestment continue that those folks we know, had been victims of historic discrimination and redlining that brought Martin Luther King to our neighborhoods in the 60s before I was born, and we still see the same levels of discrimination today with a hand in our pocket looking into the camera as though nothing’s going to change.

* More Foxx…

Whether it is those that have come here to sow discontent, who would have the audacity to write Black Lives Matter on buildings, when they don’t at all feel that, who would use this as an opportunity to sow that discontent to distract from what the real issues are.

To use criminality to poison the conversations around what we ought to be talking about that the last 24 hours. We’ve been talking about buildings and not policy, that the last 24 hours we’ve been talking about structures and not structural racism, that for the last 24 hours we have watched our neighbors have to shovel up glass, and rebuild after already having to endure closures due to the pandemic.

I want us to be clear.

We are working with our partners in the Chicago Police Department who have demonstrated extraordinary restraint. I’ve watched the national coverage. I’ve seen other cities. And I remind us that this is a test, the restraint, is what is required.

And we’ve met that test here.

And that we will hold accountable those who are seeking to exploit this moment, that those people who took to that street yesterday and exercise their first amendment right, mothers with children, elders who were there, who stood toe to toe, but did it without crossing the [boundaries]. That’s what this is about.

And I don’t want us to forget that for a moment. I don’t want our Twitter fingers to only tweet about the images that there are some only one of us to see. Because we will continue in this perpetual cycle. We will continue this thing that we do, the sensationalism of what this is and this, ladies and gentlemen, is a full [garbled] home.

And these people who’ve come in to try to disrupt that, the organized elements, who care not about systemic issues, but shoes for profit.

* More Foxx…

If we continue to talk about that [garbled] element who’s tried to hijack this and not about the men and women who died in the systems that have allowed for their deaths to go unpunished. We’ve learned nothing from this.

The State’s Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in the city of Chicago, and throughout Cook County to again hold those accountable. Not protesters. I want to be clear. We conflate protesters and looters. So two different groups. Let us not conflate what is happening in our streets across the country with the bad acts of a few. And I know we know that language, because we’ve heard about bad acts of a few versus systems use the same rhetoric, when talking about those who are taken to our streets right now, and not conflate them with those who seek to do harm.

* Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton…

There is righteous pain and outrage over injustice and historical inequities. These emotions are real and raw. And we all feel them in the black community. And as a black woman, I think about my black daughters, my black husband, my black brother, father, and nephews. And I’m sick about what happened to George Floyd and my prayers are with his family. I cannot imagine the pain that they are feeling and the pain of losing a loved one in this way.

Even still, our [angst] must be expressed peacefully. There is a message to be heard. And it should be heard loud and clearly. It should be heard without the distraction or disruption of the few who taint the goal of the many.

* On to questions for the governor, mayor and others. Were more police officers ordered on the job yesterday, was overtime authorized and really was the police department prepared for this?…

Mayor Lightfoot: Yeah, yes yes yes and yes. The planning for yesterday started days before. We had canceled days off over time. There were a number of police out on the same over the course of yesterday. We’ve now also shifted to 12 hour days, three watches.

But what happened yesterday over the course of a long day and the governor I think described it well. We moved from peaceful protest to an element that was in the crowd that was clearly there for a fight. You don’t bring a claw hammer or shovel, or bottles in urine or accelerants molecules talk cocktails, unless you’re up to something other than peaceful protests. And so, dealing with that element, certainly became a challenge. And then on the heels of tamping that down, we saw literally people coming by the car loads, and with u haul vans to loot and destroy and damage our businesses.

* Do we know who that element is?…

Mayor Lightfoot: We know what kind of organizations might be. What I can tell you at this point is we are in partnership with the FBI, the US attorney’s office the ATF particularly their bomb and arson unit. There’s no question that both the people who were fighting and brought the weapons that was absolutely organized and choreographed, it seems also clear that the fires that were set both of the vehicles and buildings that that was organized that was an opportunistic, as well as the looting, that we saw somebody driving up with a u haul, having crews jump out, breaking the windows, going in and literally hauling out the merchandise in coordination, as we saw in way too many places. Last night, car caravans doing a similar thing people jumping out using a metal device to pop the window, jumping into the stores and then loading up the cars by like an assembly line

Can we identify who they are?

Mayor Lightfoot: That is still under investigation. And once we are able to, we will certainly reveal that.

* Culd you please explain the timeline of the events leading up to the decision to activate the Illinois National Guard, we’ve kind of gone over this about the National Guard’s mission. But will they be visible. And what happens if they are confronted?…

Mayor Lightfoot: Well, what I’ll say is this, the governor I were in frequent contact throughout the course of the day yesterday, and he is frequently offered up the use of the National Guard, as a day in the evening wore on and we saw the really is a criminal element that we’ve now talked about at length. Really arising and thinking about what our deployments, were going to be. We, the superintendent and his leadership team made the call late last night, early this morning, indicated that they believe that it would be helpful to have additional resources from the National Guard and the general has explained what the limited role is that they will will play. But I’m grateful that the governor was up and around at about 1230 last night or this morning, when I called him and acted decisively and quickly to activate those resources and we’re grateful for it.

Gov. Pritzker: To the mayor’s credit yesterday, she asked for help from the state police. They were engaged yesterday they provided up to 150 troopers that were assisting. I have 250 troopers and we had 150 troopers engaged, they provided backup yesterday as well they will continue to to 100 I believe today and tonight, and the National Guard, the decision by the mayor to ask for National Guard late last night we I Mayor knows I don’t really sleep that much anyway so I was, I was up and ready for a call and call general Neely who jumped on it and you know we we acted quickly in there, you know we have 125 immediately engaged and others on their way 375 in total.

* What happens if they’re confronted?…

Gov. Pritzker: Well their job is to provide a perimeter. They’re not going to be on the front lines. There’s been a lot of discussion about that, and what their role would be but they’re really there to provide a perimeter, so that the center of the city doesn’t get overtaken the way that it seemed to in certain times.

* There are questions of whether 375 are actually enough or hearing reports this afternoon of issues in Tinley Park they’ve now issued a curfew for tonight, several miles across the suburbs, it isn’t just the city of Chicago. So, will 375 actually be enough?…

Gov. Pritzker: Well 375 National Guardsmen another hundred state police, and they, each of you know the state police in particular has the ability and does in fact on a regular basis assist local law enforcement I also want to point out that there is a network of police departments in a system called Ilyas where law enforcement agencies share resources across lines. And so for many of the other towns or cities that need additional resources they can turn to Ilyas as well so there really are resources available at all levels here for law enforcement.

* Are you concerned that their presence will inflame the violence?…

Mayor Lightfoot: No, I’m not. And to go back to the question that Rick asked, what happens if they’re confronted, there is every bit as well trained as our officers are, they are trained to come into these circumstances that particular acids that are going to be initially deployed are military police officers. So I have every confidence that they will show exactly the same kind of restraint, that our officers do, and we’re not going to let them get into a difficult circumstance thatthey can’t handle.

* Is there more you can tell us about whether any of the looters have known connections to alt-right groups? And is this criminal aspect of the protests that we’re seeing here in another city something that warrants the FBI?…

Mayor Lightfoot: The FBI is very much involved and they have been with us. Really along every single day and beforehand as preparation. We’re working in partnership with the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, the ATF particularly their bomb and arson units. It’s too soon. In the course of this investigation for us to be able to say definitively one way or the other. As I said before, when I can say there’s no question that some of the destruction that happened last night, particularly the arsons were absolutely organized and coordinated. We’ll learn more about this over time as the investigation takes us course. But that’s, I’m confident of that.

* Mayor you mentioned in your earlier 11am news conference about thinking phase three as even trying to get into the city is so difficult and watching all the boarding up going on is phase three really going to be happening on Wednesday should people plan on coming to work this week, and going out to dinner this week in the city of Chicago?…

Mayor Lightfoot: I think we have to have a lot more conversations first and foremost with our public health officials and we’ve started those conversations very early this morning. I’m very concerned about the fact that while I think the vast majority of people that gathered in the streets were wearing masks now, we could, we can have an interesting discussion about why and who was wearing masks. But the fact of the matter is, there were thousands of people in the street in very close proximity to each other, or not social distancing there, we know from both Governor’s guidance and transparency around how COVID is spread certainly ours as well. There are a number of asymptomatic people that are out there. I’m worried. I’m absolutely worried about a potential outbreak. As a result of what we saw yesterday thousands of people in cheek to jowl in small spaces is exactly the opposite of what we have been preaching now for 10 weeks time. I’m worried about it. I think it’s too soon for us to say we are still on track for reopening on Wednesday. But if that changes we will certainly let people know as quickly as possible.

But let me just also just say this last piece. There are many things that were heartbreaking about what happened last night. But I will also say that for those businesses that have been closed out for 10 weeks in river north, and it really all over the city that we’re starting to prepare had put out. In many instances brand new patio furniture, wanting to give their workers, an opportunity to earn money, and to provide entertainment for people in the city to see their hard work and their money and resources, literally go open flame, their property, reduced to kindling. That’s heartbreaking. And that kind of lawlessness, as I think State’s Attorney fox is so incredibly eloquently that’s not first amendment expression. That’s criminal conduct. And my heart aches for the people who suffered the loss that we saw all over the city.

* Do you agree that an indefinite curfew something that hasn’t been seen in Chicago for decades, is the right course of action. The ACLU calls it broad and vague, which could lead to quote arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement and is exploring possible litigation?…

Gov. Pritzker: Well, I can say that these are decisions that get made at the local level. I think that certainly anybody who watched what happened last night, and the night before too would have to would have to understand the need for a curfew of some sort. And so I think that it seemed to be helpful to the police to Chicago police last night, as there was a curfew or really kept people, most of the people off the streets, the people who were breaking the curfew were of course the very people who are doing the damage that was done.

* If the protests causes an upswing in COVID cases, would you consider putting Chicago into its own region, its own IDPH region?…

Gov. Pritzker: We’ll have to look forward to what happens over the next two to three weeks. But I am deeply concerned, as the mayor said and I said in my remarks, I am deeply concerned that when you gather people together, large groups of people even when they’re wearing masks in very small or large groups in spaces that they can’t certainly distance and don’t, we do run that risk. And so we’ll have to look at this going forward, but I at the moment you know we’re not heading backward.

But I think that it is a warning to everybody that is protesting. Just to, you know that if you could have the decency to spread out in the process of doing it, of course, the lawlessness is completely unacceptable and not tolerated. But I am concerned about the COVID-19 that can spread even in a peaceful demonstration so people should just take it easy on each other.



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