Politics & Policy

Chicago Aldermen Grill Mayor Lightfoot over Refusal to Deploy National Guard Widely

Lori Lightfoot speaks after being sworn in as Chicago’s 56th mayor at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill., May 20, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Members of the Chicago City Council slammed Mayor Lori Lightfoot during a private conference over her decision to limit deployment of the National Guard to the city’s central business district over the weekend, saying that districts on the south and west side of the city were left unprotected over Chicago’s deadliest weekend in 60 years.

A recording the Sunday call, obtained by local PBS affiliate WTTW, reveals that a number of aldermen told the mayor that their communities had been wrecked by the violence in the wake of national unrest following the death of George Floyd, and urged her to deploy the National Guard to protect businesses.

Two dozen people were killed and at least 61 injured by gun violence over the weekend, with Sunday seeing 18 murders — the deadliest day in Chicago’s 60 years of tracking data. The city’s 911 center received 65,000 calls in a single 24-hour period Sunday — 50,000 more than normal.

“What are we going to have left in our community?” Michelle Harris (8th Ward) asked her colleagues before answering herself. “Nothing. I feel like I am at ground zero — my major business district is shattered. Why would Walmart or CVS come back to our communities?”

Emma Mitts (37th Ward) said her West Side ward was like “the wild, wild west out there.”

Ed Burke (14th Ward), who was elected to the City Council in 1969, said the situation was “far worse than it was in 1968,” when the city suffered police riots in the wake of the Democratic National Convention.

“My ward is a s–t show,” Sadlowski-Garza warned, revealing that cop cars and banks had been burned. “They are shooting at the police. I have never seen the likes of this. I’m scared.”

Lightfoot, who wasn’t able to speak for the first five minutes of the call due to the number of concerns, admitted that she had never seen a situation like this in Chicago.  “This is a massive, massive problem,” Lightfoot stated. “People are just f—–g lawless right now.” But she pushed back on criticisms that her administration had concentrated police in the business district and left much of the city to fend for itself, saying the allegation “offends me deeply, personally, in part because it is simply not so.”

When Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) asked Lightfoot to use the National Guard to protect grocery stores and pharmacies after she had deployed 375 members of the Illinois National Guard to block off the city’s central Loop, Lightfoot pushed back on the request, saying the National Guard “are not a magic tool, they are the military” and that deploying them would only worsen the situation.

“We’ve been working our ass off. It is all over the city,” she stated.

The mayor also got into a shouting match with Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), who asked her what the plan was “to try and stabilize our communities,” saying his own Southwest Side ward was “a virtual war zone.”

Lightfoot responded by telling Lopez — an outspoken critic of her administration — that he was “100 percent full of s–t.”

“Well, f–k you then,” Lopez replied. “Mayor you need to check your f—–g attitude.”

The Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus slammed Lightfoot’s decision to use the Illinois National Guard to block off the Loop and the central business district starting Sunday morning, saying it made businesses on the South and West sides an “easy target” for looters because they “did not have the same level of protection.”

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