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One Year After Civil Unrest And Looting Engulfed Chicago, Some Business Districts Still Struggle

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Over several days beginning one year ago Saturday, Chicago saw unrest unlike anything we had seen in decades.

Just days after the anniversary of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, Chicago remembered the anniversary of the looting and unrest from which the city continues to recover.

Unrest and looting was first seen downtown on the night of Friday, March 29, 2020, and it grew far more severe in the downtown area the following day – as police cars and other vehicles were set on fire, stores were looted throughout the downtown area, and at least two downtown businesses were also set on fire.

One of them was Central Camera, 332 S. Wabash Ave. Owner Don Flesch talked with CBS 2's Charlie De Mar right there on the spot, and vowed to rebuild and reopen. The storefront that was looted and burned remains boarded up under its iconic and still-operative neon sign, but Central Camera is back open for business at the storefront just to the north.

"It's what's going on, it's reality, so you deal with it," Flesch told De Mar on the night of Saturday, May 30 of last year. "It's that simple."

The following day – with a curfew in place and access restricted to the Central Business District - unrest and fires spread through city neighborhoods. The West Garfield Park neighborhood was among those especially hard hit, and Siri Hibbler of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce said parts of that area are still struggling a year later.

Hibbler recounted what happened a year earlier at one area business.

"I think there was some broken glass; a lot of people grabbing, running - broken glass was everywhere. There were flames coming up," Hibbler said. "This was the beauty supply, and it burned."

In the week following the killing of Floyd, the flames of racial reckoning burned across the country, across the Loop, and across Chicago. Stores, both big-box and local, were targeted.

"They're boarded up now," Hibbler said. "They haven't recovered."

Hibbler was born and raised in Garfield Park. She was our guide for the past, and present.

Parra: "One year later, what has changed?"

Hibbler: "One year later, it's still, you know, dirty. It's still nothing being built on it. It's exactly back the same that it was, minus the businesses that we lost."

Those were local businesses that hired local people.

"Folks were talking about, 'Well, the insurance will cover, insurance will cover,'" Hibbler said. "Some businesses did not have insurance, so they were not able to sustain themselves."

The scars of the trauma run deep.

"To say the best way to handle the anger was to riot and loot the stores - I can't say that," Hibbler said. "But I can say that I understand the pain. I understand the frustration."

The reckoning is still being reckoned with. But Hibbler said if you're looking for signs of love, look to the ones who rebuilt.

"What I love about this community is folks came out and helped clean the community," Hibbler said. "That shows us that these businesses love this community and the community loves them back - and that gives us hope."

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