Following early morning looting and violence Monday in downtown Chicago, area retailers spent the day assessing their financial losses and trying to safeguard their properties.
More than 200 stores were impacted in the city’s central business district and “millions” of dollars worth of damage resulted, with the Magnificent Mile and tony Oak Street among the hardest hit areas. The events unfolded after police responded Sunday afternoon to reports of a man with a gun, who fled and fired at officers, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Doug Brown said in a Monday morning press conference. The 20-year-old suspect was later arrested and had previously faced four criminal charges, Brown said.
Afterward, a crowd gathered due in part to misinformation and police learned via social media of looting that was planned downtown, Brown said. More than 400 CPD officers were deployed to the area. Looting and violence ensued in the early hours of Monday. Two people were shot, more than 100 people were reportedly arrested and 13 police officers were injured.
A CPD spokesman declined to comment Monday on the current number of arrests due to the situation being a “fluid and ongoing event.” He declined to say how much additional manpower would be needed Monday night, but indicated that it would be allocated as needed.
“To try to prevent people from congregating” Monday night, Chicago officials planned to have restricted access — not a curfew — into the downtown area from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., according to a spokeswoman for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Her office did not respond immediately to a request Monday afternoon asking whether any guidance will be provided to area businesses.
During the early Monday morning looting in the central business district, anchor stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s were “hard hit,” according to Adam Skaf, a spokesman for the Magnificent Mile Association.
Gap Inc. reported damage to four of its stores and later Monday temporarily closed 15 units in the area as a precaution.
This is the second time in recent months that many Chicago stores have faced looting. In early June, boutiques and major retailers were struck. After the killing of George Floyd while under Minneapolis police custody, generally peaceful protests about police brutality and social justice were held throughout the U.S. Separate from those orderly events, violence took place in some major cities, including Chicago.
Unlike the wave of looting that occurred in early June, this time high-end luxury stores along Oak Street were heavily affected. Having assessed the property damage in the city earlier Monday, Skaf said that Dior was “completely ransacked,” and Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Coach were among the “hardest hit” boutiques.
“Millions of dollars” worth of damage was caused just in relation to the lost property, not to mention due to broken windows and damaged infrastructures, he said. Retailers of all sizes were affected, including mass chains like CVS Health. A spokesman for the company did not respond to requests for comment.
In response to what Brown described as “caravans” and what Skaf said entailed more than 100 cars, city officials drew up the bridges in the city early Monday morning to try to prevent further incidents.
On Aug, 3, Magnificent Mile representatives met with city officials to discuss the need for additional resources designated for greater safety and security. The following day the rapper known as FBG Duck was killed in a shooting that occurred on Oak Street near the luxury retailers, Skaf said. In late July, CPD announced the Critical Incident Response Team, a new auxiliary police force that will handle protests and large gatherings. Supporting that initiative was among the issues discussed, Skaf said.
“We need a more comprehensive security plan from the city. We need assurance for not only our stakeholders and for visitors — as many as are possible during a pandemic — but also for the 100,000-plus residents who live around the Magnificent Mile and Michigan Avenue,” Skaf said. “It is a very scary time for them as well.”
In the press conference Monday morning, Brown said, “This was not an organized protest, rather this was an incident of pure criminality that was an act of violence against our officers and our city.”
An owner of a downtown women’s fashion boutique in the Gold District, who requested anonymity, said his financial loss was $25,000, due to stolen money and property damage. In early June, his store had about $10,000 worth of damage due to looting, he said.
Unlike in early June, on Monday morning he arrived at his store after the looting was well underway. Multiple cars, vans and a truck had pulled up in his commercial neighborhood, the owner said. After a friend who lives in a nearby residential tower informed him that “things were getting hairy,” he said he headed to his store around 2:30 a.m. Once his alarm company phoned to say there was motion in the store, the retailer called a friend to meet him there. The two men then stood guard at the store’s entrance for hours using their cellphones “to pretend to call the police. That was my defense last time in June, and it seemed to work,” he explained. “There was looting going on down the street, left, right — everywhere.”
Having driven around the area after 7 a.m. Monday “when it felt safe to find a cup of coffee,” the store owner said, “every store that has retail — almost every single one of them — had broken windows and glass. They were definitely hitting retail stores and looting seemed to be the main reason,” citing a nail salon, a 7-Eleven, and an Ace Hardware store as examples.
“For the most part, I think they were organized groups of people, who were pulling up in cars. There was actually a U-Haul in front of my store. That would have had some advance planning, I would think. It seems to be an organized effort to loot and steal,” he said.
As for whether he will plan to reopen, he said, “It’s still pretty fresh. Our immediate concern is tonight [Monday]. Right now we’re still pretty shell-shocked. This is the third break-in that we have had since February.”
Spending Monday removing “what’s left of his store’s merchandise,” the anonymous store owner said that he had not received any guidance from city officials or anyone else about how to deal with Monday night. “We don’t feel very well-protected — let’s put it that way,” he said.
As for when Chicago officials may put in place more comprehensive security plans, Skaf of the Magnificent Mile Association said, “It should be any day now. It needs to happen right away,” adding that Brown expressed concern publicly about the looting spreading to other neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides, as it had in early June.