Downtown Chicago has hit by widespread looting late on Sunday and early Monday morning, hours after police shot a young man in a predominantly black neighbourhood.
About 100 people have been arrested and 13 police officers were injured as they tried to contain the looting, according to David Brown, Chicago police superintendent.
The Chicago Transit Authority cut off trains and buses to the downtown area known as the Loop during the Monday morning rush hour, and the city raised all but one bridge over the Chicago River, further restricting access to the city centre.
“This was an assault on our city that undermines public safety and breeds a sense of insecurity among our residents,” said Lori Lightfoot, the city’s Democratic mayor.
The seeds of the unrest were sown on Sunday afternoon in a South Side neighbourhood after police chased an individual, who then fired at them, Mr Brown said. The officers shot the 20-year-old man, who was taken to the hospital. He is expected to survive.
A crowd grew at the scene of the shooting, and late in the evening, police monitoring social media read a post encouraging looting downtown. About 400 police officers were dispatched to the city centre.
“Soon car caravans were headed into Loop,” Mr Brown said. “This was not an organised protest. Rather this was an incident of pure criminality.”
Chicago’s downtown was looted in late May when riots accompanied widespread protests over racial injustice sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer.
Chicago has seen a rise in homicides this year, even as other crime has fallen. The US Department of Justice has dedicated about 300 federal agents to “Operation Legend”, which it says will combat violent crime in the city. But the increased federal manpower prompted a lawsuit from Chicago activists who fear that law enforcement will interfere with their right to protest, as has happened in Portland, Oregon.
Mr Brown said that because few prosecutions had stemmed from those early summer arrests, on Sunday “criminals took to the streets with the confidence that there will be no consequences for their actions”.
“What occurred in our downtown and surrounding communities was abject criminal behaviour, pure and simple,” Ms Lightfoot said. “There cannot be any excuse for it. Period. This is not legitimate, First Amendment-protected speech. These were not poor people engaged in petty theft to feed themselves and their families. This was straight-up felony criminal conduct.”
The looting was not contained to the Loop. It began on the South Side and later included the Magnificent Mile, where big retailers have their flagship stores, and two affluent districts just north of downtown.
Mr Brown said the city — which has mandated overtime and cancelled holiday for police — plans to deploy officers to commercial districts outside the city centre to protect them. Many of them were looted two months ago, in the days after downtown stores were targeted.
The city is limiting access to downtown from 8am to 6pm for the coming days.