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Chicago Has Long History Of Civil Unrest, But Downtown Location Makes This Year Different

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This has been a very tense time in Chicago, with first the pandemic and then major outbreaks of unrest, just two months apart.

As CBS 2's Jim Williams noted Monday night, the city has lived through this before.

There was the 1919 Race Riot, and 50 years later, the so-called Days of Rage organized by the Weathermen group in 1969. A year before that, unrest, looting, and arson broke out after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But while Chicago had its share of unrest, the location of much of this latest violence and the time span makes this different.

When stores were burned and looted the weekend of May 30 amid the protests over George Floyd's death, Mayor Lori Lightfoot drew a distinction between nonviolent demonstrators and those who destroyed property and businesses.

"I stand shoulder to shoulder with those who've come out peacefully," she said of nonviolent protesters on Sunday, May 31. But of those who destroyed, the mayor said, "You should be ashamed of yourself."

In the looting early in the morning on Monday, 13 police officers were hurt and 100 people were arrested. It was the second spasm of violence in two months.

This time, the mayor had one focus – criminals.

"We are coming for you," the mayor said. "What occurred downtown and surrounding communities was object criminal behavior - pure and simple."

Hours earlier, police shot and wounded 20-year-old Latrell Allen, who they said had a gun and fired at officers in Englewood. It angered residents there.

Chicago has a history of violent gatherings.

In 1966, a riot erupted on the West Side when the city shut off water fountains. Children had been cooling off.

Two years later, the assassination of Dr. King sparked 48 hours of fires and looting in East and West Garfield Park. Eleven people were killed, 2,100 people were arrested, and 100 buildings were destroyed.

In August of 1968, police clashed with anti-Vietnam protestors during the Democratic National Convention as indeed, the whole world watched.

But what has happened in the past nine weeks in Chicago is unprecedented - widespread destruction and looting in the heart of the city, home to many businesses and tourist attractions.

"This was straight up an assault on our city," Mayor Lightfoot said.

This is not to ignore the very real suffering in neighborhoods outside Chicago's central area. Two months ago, after police largely secured downtown, the looting moved to other communities and we saw the anguish.

We're keeping a close look at those areas now.

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