'I can't stand seeing this happening here': Cleanup starts in Naperville after vandalism, looting
Downtown Naperville businesses were cleaning up Tuesday after overnight vandalism and looting left storefront windows shattered and shop owners assessing the damage.
A peaceful demonstration began at 3 p.m. Monday and lasted for hours with hundreds of people marching through downtown streets to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The unrest broke out shortly after a curfew took effect at 9 p.m.
By 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Chelsea Lahaye of Naperville was among the volunteers sweeping up glass outside more than 30 damaged or burglarized stores.
"I just wanted to help the businesses that were already affected by the pandemic," Lahaye said. "It's definitely giving a feeling of hope."
Michael Williams helped remove graffiti in a walkway next to the Apple store, clear broken glass in the sidewalk beside Lou Malnati's Pizzeria and, as a black man, reflected on the turmoil across the country. Williams made a distinction between the looters and legitimate protesters.
"A lot of these young people, they're trying to do the right thing by protesting because they're tired of not being heard," the retired North Aurora man said.
The peaceful gathering veered in tone late Monday after someone threw an explosive device at a line of police keeping their post at Washington Street and Chicago Avenue.
"That was more than a firework," police Chief Robert Marshall said as he surveyed the downtown. "That was an explosive device, and we are working with the FBI to identify that device, which is typically used by agitators, rioters to disrupt our police actions."
Vandals and looters fanned out across the downtown, with some throwing bricks and bottles at officers, police vehicles and store windows.
"We did absolutely our best to preserve property, but our number one objective was to preserve life," Marshall said.
A protester was stabbed by another individual because he was "trying to help the police department in dealing with some of the violence, some of the looting, some of the vandalism," Marshall said.
The stabbing victim was taken to Edward Hospital with serious injuries and remains in serious condition, Marshall said. The suspect and the victim are males.
"We're still trying to work that case because the offender got away," Marshall said.
Police made 11 arrests stemming from the downtown looting. In response to questions about the department's response, Marshall said it wasn't feasible to conduct mass arrests.
"There were people down there still peacefully protesting, and to separate the violent from the peaceful protesters was just not tactically possible," he said.
Initially, the department had 30 officers in place. Around 11 p.m., nearly 100 state troopers in addition to officers from other agencies responded to Naperville.
Police also are reviewing video from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security helicopter that hovered over the downtown.
Outside the core shopping district, at least five businesses were either burglarized or vandalized, including a gun shop on North Aurora Road, Nordstrom Rack and a jewelry store, Marshall said.
Three to five officers suffered minor injuries, Marshall said. There were no reports of gun violence, arson or injuries to bystanders. Marshall said police did not deploy tear gas.
"Some of the things that are happening in other communities did not happen here," Marshall said.
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico acknowledged "work to do" to address racism. He called the turmoil "sickening to watch" and something for which it is difficult to prepare.
"We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars training our police officers to de-escalate situations," Chirico said.
He joined hundreds of volunteers mobilized by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and Naperville Pride in a cleaning effort that began after sunrise.
Pinky Amin of Aurora used duct tape to pick up glass out of sidewalk crevices outside Barnes & Noble, among the first stores to be vandalized.
"This is my city. I'm here every day," said Amin, who frequents downtown Naperville to walk her dog or have coffee. "I love this place. I can't stand seeing this happening here."
A trio of representatives from the Fox Valley Mall location of Chick-fil-A, including Dania Polido, passed out chicken biscuits to volunteers as they helped clean. They were in downtown Aurora Monday as helpers cleaned up that area after it was damaged Sunday night.
Owner Mark Cabrera III said that in the two days his shop will have given out about 300 sandwiches.
"We want to be part of our community and we saw our community was in need and hurting, and we wanted to support those out here helping out," Cabrera said.