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One Year After Unrest, Looting In Chicago: Path To Recovery Is A Greater Challenge For Some Areas Than Others

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Sunday marked one year since the height of unrest in downtown Chicago following the death of George Floyd.

Unrest was seen the night before, but peaked on the night of Saturday, May 30, 2020, with clashes between police and crowds, squad cars being set on fire, numerous stores being looted, and at least two downtown stores also being set ablaze.

A 9 p.m. curfew was put into place by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on short notice that night and remained in effect for more than a week afterward. The mayor said in a news conference while chaos prevailed on downtown streets that evening: "What started out as a peaceful protest has now devolved into criminal conduct. We have watched these protesters hurl not just words, bur projectiles at our police department; bottles of water, urine, and Lord knows what else."

And as he anchored our coverage that night, CBS 2's Jim Williams said, "It has been one of the most violent days of the city of Chicago, and it hearkens back, really, to the late 1960s."

Meanwhile, Chicago River bridges were raised, and the National Guard was deployed the following day as large-scale unrest moved into city neighborhoods.

"One year ago today, my businesses were looted," said Shontee Ross.

As CBS 2's Marissa Parra reported Sunday, Ross' South Side business -- Grandway Lash and Nails Studio at 95th Street and Calumet Avenue -- was one of many. The damage across the city was upwards of millions of dollars after the unrest that rocked the Chicago area this same weekend last year.

Macy's at 111 N. State St. was ransacked, along with numerous stores all around it. CBS 2's cameras were there as the Chicago Sports store at 332 N. Michigan Ave. was engulfed in a raging fire; Central Camera at 230 S. Wabash Ave. was also set ablaze.

So were numerous buildings and businesses in other areas of the city.

In the year since, Chicago Police have had the massive task of sifting through hundreds of videos from social media and surveillance cameras> to piece together who did what those nights.

Federal agents identified instigators such as Matthew Lee Rupert, who bragged about looting and said, "Let's start a riot," on Facebook Live.

But now, one year later, the scene in some city neighborhoods is a world apart from what is seen downtown. From the outside, the wounds are healing – several stores such as Macy's seem like business as usual and have for some time.

But for many smaller and more local businesses – especially in Black and Brown communities – the battle to reopen remains uphill.

"There's no way that you can look at neighborhoods like this and say looting could have been justified," Ross said.

Anger has now turned to acceptance. The looters took Ross' merchandise and she took a couple steps back, but they did not take her resolve.

"I'm grateful for the fact that I do still have the brick and mortar here, and there have been organizations that have helped a lot of us out, but there's still like really big needs for the small businesses still that are trying to recover," she said. "We definitely need the support of the neighborhoods and the people within them."

As noted, the path to recovery looks a little different depending on where you stand. But if you did not have a trained eye to spot the plywood and "for sale" signs in front of businesses that were open before the pandemic and looting, driving around the city today would almost feel like a normal Memorial Day weekend from years past.

And meanwhile, Ross said on a brighter note, she expects Grandway Lash and Nail to open in a few weeks in a new location at at 407 E. 69th St.

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