CHICAGO - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised city police Sunday for “fairly quickly” settling weekend protests that devolved into violent skirmishes while activists and other elected officials blasted police for unnecessary aggressive tactics.
The day of demonstrations against police brutality started peacefully Saturday with a march around noon. Later, a separate demonstration near downtown resulted in two dozen arrests, 17 injured officers and at least two injured protesters. None of the injuries were believed to be life threatening.
Lightfoot told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that agitators “have embedded themselves in these seemingly peaceful protests and come for a fight” though the clashes were “over very fairly quickly because our police department is resolved to make sure that we protect peaceful protests.”
Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown said that some in the group used black umbrellas to make it harder for police to see them, pushed officers and assaulted them. In one video released by Chicago police, a person swinging a skateboard strikes an officer.
At the same time, activist groups and some elected officials called out police for using aggressive tactics, including spraying the crowd with a chemical irritant and striking protesters with batons.
“The march was peaceful until CPD and other law enforcement agencies began an all-out assault on protesters,” said a Sunday statement from youth activist group Increase The Peace.
Several Chicago Democrats, including state Sen. Robert Peters, state Rep. Lakesia Collins and Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, questioned using department money on such a response to protesters in a city that has had a lower homicide case clearance rate than other big cities.
“We once again condemn Mayor Lightfoot and Superintendent Brown for their use of police force against these demonstrators on Saturday night, and for the continued escalation of surveillance, violence, and detention of protesters,” said a Sunday statement from the group.
Saturday’s march against police brutality followed a route near the Dan Ryan Expressway after police blocked the group of about 200 people from getting on the expressway.
The march came about a week after a police shooting of a black man in the Englewood neighborhood on the city’s South Side prompted large crowds of people to go to the downtown shopping area, where they smashed windows of dozens of businesses and took merchandise from stores.