Vandals, looters damage downtown Naperville businesses
A protest in Naperville that started peacefully took an ugly turn late Monday night as authorities said a different group of protesters arrived and began breaking windows and looting downtown businesses.
The vandalism and looting began around 9:35 p.m. -- despite a 9 p.m. curfew -- when one protester set off a firework that caused an explosion. Vandals then broke windows at more than a dozen downtown establishments, including Barnes & Noble, Talbots, Sullivan's Steakhouse, Walgreens, Smoothie King, Bangkok Village, Pandora, Starbucks and the Gap. Looters also entered some businesses, police said, and tried unsuccessfully to break into the Apple store.
Some downtown businesses had boarded up their windows before the protest began at 3 p.m. and most had closed early at the city's urging.
Naperville police Cmdr. Mike Son said the damage began after the firework was set off. Many protesters ran from the Washington Street and Chicago Avenue intersection where the firework went off, but did not immediately leave downtown and began breaking windows and entering businesses.
"This appeared to be a different group," Son said. "They weren't protesting the same way the other group was."
Hours earlier, the protest started with a march through downtown by hundreds of protesters upset about the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters chanted phrases like, "I can't breathe."
"We are tired. We are angry," Samantha Taylor of Berkeley shouted to the crowd that filled Eagle Street near city hall. "We are tired of being calm. So we will speak our truth. And we will speak it until somebody hears us."
The group then walked west on Aurora Avenue to the police station, where Mayor Steve Chirico addressed the protesters.
For more than 20 minutes, the mayor listened to and spoke with several people as the rest of the crowd looked on.
"All we need is your cooperation that you're going to diversify your administration," Regina Brent, president of Unity Partnership, said to Chirico. While the police department has black officers, Brent said, "we need more."
And after occasions of reported racist acts at schools, restaurants and gas stations in Naperville, Brent said, the city needs a board to "hear these young people out."
Chirico acknowledged that more needs to be done.
"We know it's true," he said. "We've seen it -- all of us. We have a lot of work to do."
Benjamin White, who is the only black member of the Naperville City Council, said the city has been able to do things "that I know would have not have happened if I -- or someone who looked like me -- wasn't here."
For example, he said, the city has updated its mission statement to value diversity and inclusion.
"So now we can start making action steps because we've got something in our mission that says that's what we're supposed to do," he said.
But the group didn't leave the police station until after Chirico, White and a Naperville Park District police officer -- Michael Maher -- took a knee.
"Go home, sit down and write a plan of how we go from here," Brent told the crowd.
Chirico said he's willing to meet with anyone who wants to meet with him.
"It's a very emotional and very passionate moment for these young people," Chirico said. "For many of them, it's the first time they've ever gotten involved politically."
He said they need transfer that emotion into "productive plans" and getting involved.
"We can't do this by screaming at each other," Chirico said. "You have to do this by working together."
In Schaumburg, at least 75 people peacefully protested Monday afternoon at Schaumburg and Roselle roads on the edge of Veterans Gateway Park. Holding signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and shouting Floyd's name, they drew honks from several drivers at the busy intersection. Sam Tuminaro, 23, of Schaumburg helped organize the protest. He said he attended weekend protests in Chicago but decided a rally was needed in the suburbs, "where racism hides."
"I want everybody out here," Tuminaro said. "I don't care if they're young, old, what race they come from, what class they come from or what society they come from. I want everybody else out on the streets protesting the systematic way that our system oppresses black people and people of color every single day."
Gayle Pearlstein, 42, who recently moved from Schaumburg to Bloomingdale, said she joined the protest because unity needs to be created in the country and it was important to show the suburbs care about Floyd's death.
"Get rid of racism," Pearlstein said. "Promote love and let everybody know that this is not tolerated. This is horrible, what's happening."
• Daily Herald staff writer Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.