Pritzker activates National Guard for Chicago ahead of Derek Chauvin verdict

Governor JB Pritzker on Monday activated the Illinois National Guard to help support the Chicago Police Department as a verdict is expected soon in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The city of Chicago requested the assistance. Members of the Guard, 125 to be exact, will deploy downtown beginning Tuesday.


Pritzker says the Guard will carry out a "limited mission to help manage street closures and will not interfere with peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights, much the same role as Guard members played in previous deployments."

"At the request of Mayor Lightfoot, I am activating members of the Illinois National Guard to support the city in keeping our communities safe," Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement. "It is critical that those who wish to peacefully protest against the systemic racism and injustice that holds back too many of our communities continue to be able to do so. Members of the Guard and the Illinois State Police will support the City of Chicago’s efforts to protect the rights of peaceful protestors and keep our families safe."

The guard will mainly be managing street closures, officials said.

The case against Chauvin was sent to the jury Monday afternoon after attorneys finished their closing arguments.

Prosecutors argued that Chauvin murdered Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, while the defense said that the officer acted within his rights, chalking Floyd’s death up to an underlying heart condition and illegal drug use.

The incident last May sparked worldwide uprisings against systemic racism and police brutality, including in Chicago, where protesters regularly took to the streets throughout the summer.

Though the majority of those protests remained peaceful, officers and demonstrators clashed on multiple occasions, including in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, when Pritzker first sent the Guard to Chicago. He also called on the National Guard after charges were announced in the raid of the home of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police in Louisville.

The Office of Emergency Management said in a statement that the Guard is being deployed "out of an abundance of caution … in the event that additional personnel are required to maintain public safety."

Demonstrations may pop up in and around Chicago this week. One group in Joliet plans to rally every afternoon near Jefferson and Larkin, until the verdict is read.

"We will be praying, breaking chains and coming together as one," said Trista Brown with 'Speak Up' -- the group hosting the protests. "If there's not a guilty verdict we think it's important to come together with spiritual leaders so that there is not any kind of violence that's going on today."

Joliet police say they are monitoring all protests and have resources in place to respond, if necessary. 

"Our greatest priority at all times is ensuring the safety and security of the public," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. "While there is no actionable intelligence at this time, we want to be fully prepared out of an abundance of caution. Our city has a long history of peacefully expressing its First Amendment rights and I encourage residents to exercise their rights to free speech this coming week thoughtfully, respectfully and peacefully."

"Infrastructure assets," such as city garbage trucks and other vehicles, will be "strategically staged to ensure the safety of residents, neighborhood commercial corridors and critical businesses," OEMC said.

Last summer, when protests were at their peak, the city frequently used those vehicles to block street access to downtown and other popular business districts, and the bridges were raised over the Chicago River to limit Loop access for days at a time.

While officials said there are no plans to raise the bridges again in preparation for the Chauvin verdict, the Chicago Department of Transportation did announce Monday that the bridges would be raised Tuesday for "testing and maintenance." However, the department backtracked on those plans after just 15 minutes, saying that the bridge lifts would be postponed and rescheduled for a later date.

In addition, Pritzker has directed the Illinois State Police to work closely with CPD, the Guard and other local law enforcement to protect peaceful protests and keep communities safe.

The announcement comes as Lightfoot also tries to manage the fallout of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Body camera footage released last week appears to show the boy dropping a gun and raising his hands at the command of an officer who chased him through a Little Village alley before shooting him once in the chest.

On Friday, over 1,000 demonstrators peacefully marched through Logan Square, where Lightfoot lives, in protest of the shooting.

After the march finished, officers and a handful of protesters briefly butted heads. Officers could be seen pushing and dragging protesters out of the way of police vehicles, and the scuffle ended with two arrests.

FOX 32's Elizabeth Matthews and the Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.