Photo by Dermot Connolly
Smokers Haven, at 9241 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn, was one of the businesses hit by looters in the village on Sunday night. A police sergeant responding to the scene suffered a knee injury, but arrests were made.
By Dermot Connolly
Last weekend’s beautiful weather was expected to draw crowds to local restaurants offering outdoor dining. But instead, many communities from Evergreen Park to Orland Park instituted emergency curfews on Sunday after looting that followed demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis spread from Chicago and some suburbs.
After reports of damage to the Sam’s Club in Evergreen Park early Sunday morning, all the big box stores along Western Avenue and 95th Street closed and Evergreen Park police and public works employees barricaded the entrances to all the strip malls int he busy shopping areas. Even the entrance to 50-Acre Park on 91st Street, between Western and California was closed early in the day.
Target, Home Depot and Walgreens were among the businesses that closed as a precautionary measure, and Oak Lawn police vehicles and barricades were put in place to block the entrances to the business on 95th Street.
Chicago Ridge Mall and Orland Square Mall were also closed and blocked off early on Sunday, before anything happened.
Rumors were flying all day on Sunday on social media, so it was difficult to determine what exactly was happening, if anything, in many of the local communities.
Mayors of Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge and Orland Park were among those who tried to keep residents informed through online messages and dispel rumors.
Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton said there were “protesters out in pockets of areas along Western Avenue and 95 th Street. “ Please know that our police department is disbanding these groups as the clusters form. We are ahead of the game here and I want you to know that our residents are safe and fully protected.”
There were sporadic breakouts of violence in a few areas later in the day.
Oak Lawn police and Mayor Sandra Bury confirmed that eight arrests were made, following incidents that included break-ins and looting at Foodie’s grocery store, 9652 S. Pulaski Road, and at Smokers Haven tobacco shop, 9241 S. Cicero Ave. Three police officers also suffered minor injuries, Bury said, including a sergeant who suffered a knee injury outside Smokers Haven in an altercation with looters.
She said the 911 center in the village fielded 450 calls on Sunday, quadruple what they usually handle.
“ We want people to call 911 if they see anything suspicious,” said Bury, something Sexton echoed as well.
A T-Mobile store in Palos Heights was broken into on Sunday, but police said nothing was taken and it was unclear if the incident was related to looting elsewhere.
Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said that arrests were made following a break-in at a jewelry store in the village, and someone was charged with disorderly conduct outside Orland Square Mall.
“ There were people driving around (the village),” said Pekau. "But they were blocked by police at every turn and kept going.”
Orland Square Mall remained closed on Monday, following reports that Black Lives Matter was planning a major demonstration there at 4 p.m. Monday.
But the only people who turned out were four teenage girls from the south suburbs unaffiliated with any group, who stationed themselves across LaGrange Road from the mall at 149th Street. Sisters Alayna and Kailah Hester, and Daisha and Dez Mitchell, all graduates or current students at Southland College Prep School in Richton Park, said they were just upset about the killing of George Floyd and wanted to speak out for him. They said their parents wouldn’t allow them to join demonstrations in Chicago and they came to the mall because it is a highly trafficked area.
As they shouted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” a few supportive people brought them food from nearby restaurants. They received some honks of support from passing motorists and raised middle finger from others.
“ Chicago Ridge received no damage and had no arrests,” said Chicago Ridge Trustee Ed Kowalski in a statement posted on Facebook. “Our officers went above and beyond. They were aggressive without crossing lines. They were screamed at, called names and harassed. They put themselves out there to coronavirus exposure. All this to protect this town's businesses and residents. They did their job and did it well,” said Kowalski.
He also thanked neighboring police departments. “Together we are stronger than any force that can tear us down.”
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said on Tuesday that Chicago Ridge Mall was expected to reopen yesterday, Wednesday, but the mall owners informed him they were postponing that until later in the week because of reports of disturbances planned at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.
“ We have a great police presence there. It just kills you that we have to do it. All these restaurants were just opening and they had to close again,” said Tokar.
He said the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew would be lifted on Wednesday, yesterday, as long as no trouble happens.
The Oak Lawn curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. was also expected to be lifted on Wednesday. In Evergreen Park, the curfew from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. was also supposed to end Wednesday.