Several businesses were looted, and Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers responded, lining Western Avenue—but a bomb scare in a residential area turned out to be false.
After violent protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while he was being taken into custody by police officers in Minneapolis, officials in Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood were on alert on May 31.
Looters broke front windows at many local businesses, with many then stealing merchandise, similar to protests in cities throughout the country.
Alonzo Jackson, who is black and the owner of Fashion Geek, 2148 W. 95th St., was saddened after his store was ransacked.
“People are using these times to be ignorant,” Jackson said. “I saw this coming. What can I do? It’s just unfortunate. We’re black owned. What sense does it make to clean us out?”
Jackson said he opened his shop, which sells men’s streetwear, about four years ago. He started his business about 15 years ago, and he operates multiple locations.
Jackson, a Princeton Park native who attended Leo High School, said he worked to board the business up all morning. But, the glass of the front door was shattered, and his store was empty.
“Everything is gone,” he said.
He provided a video broadcast by TV news media that showed a man stealing items.
He said his Beverly location was targeted.
“They knew where we were,” Jackson said. “They broke into this one on purpose.”
Jackson called Floyd’s death “unfortunate” and said he understands people’s anger. However, he said it “isn’t an excuse to be ignorant,” and he is “not a fan” of the reaction to the tragedy.
Jackson said his shop will be back.
“It’s frustrating, but we don’t have a choice,” Jackson said. “I’m definitely going to rebuild. It doesn’t make sense.”
During the incident, 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea was confronting looters at Andriana Furs, 2201 W. 95th St., located across the street from Jackson’s store, when he saw Fashion Geek being vandalized.
O’Shea confronted the thieves, who he said arrived in three or four vehicles, but the damage was done.
Several other local businesses, many of them on Western Avenue, were the victims of broken front windows and theft of merchandise.
O’Shea said arrests had been made in some of the crimes.
Businesses in surrounding suburbs were also looted.
O’Shea said a van containing stolen items was located on the 11800 block of South Bell Avenue.
He called Floyd’s death “a terrible tragedy,” but he said the protests have gotten out of hand.
“There are peaceful protests,” O’Shea said. “This activity—this is not the First Amendment. This is not honoring the memory of George Floyd. These are opportunists.”
Minutes after leaving Fashion Geek, O’Shea was on the scene on the 10100 block of South Talman Avenue, where the CPD and Chicago Fire Department personnel had responded to a report of a potential bomb in an alley.
Bomb and arson units used a robotic device to investigate the object, which O’Shea and CPD officials described as a mason jar containing liquid and another material. O’Shea said the object emitted a noise similar to the sound of the alarm on devices used to prevent thefts in retail stores.
Police fired shots at the jar to destroy it, and O’Shea described the incident as a “hoax.”
Several residents had gathered to watch authorities address the situation.
Nationwide, police have clashed with protesters at gatherings that became violent. Heated protests turned into riots in downtown Chicago from May 29-30.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot enacted a curfew of 9 p.m., which went into effect on May 30.
O’Shea, an active supporter of law enforcement and an advisory board member of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, said criticism of the police is “just so frustrating.”
“There was a murder committed,” O’Shea said, “and now all of our law enforcement is painted with a broad brush.”
As a new week began, and the calendar turned to June, local tension remained heavy. Boards were installed on some business’ exteriors, and employees swept away debris.
O’Shea said he is working to bring additional resources to the community to keep residents safe.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” O’Shea said, “and provide assistance where we can.”