CHICAGO — Hundreds of people converged early Monday on the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s most famous shopping district, breaking windows, looting stores and clashing with the police, a chaotic scene that prompted city officials to briefly raise bridges downtown and halt nearby public transit to stem the unrest.
Chicago police officers arrested more than 100 people on charges of disorderly conduct, looting and battery against the police.
The eruption of violence unnerved a city that is already on edge. Chicago, like many other cities across the country, has seen a spike in gun crimes this summer. Its residents have participated in dozens of demonstrations protesting police brutality. And it is still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, with cases steadily increasing in recent weeks.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, appearing at a morning news conference, made it clear that she saw no connection between the unrest overnight and what she described as a “righteous uprising” after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.
“We are waking up in shock this morning,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “What occurred downtown and in surrounding communities was abject criminal behavior, pure and simple.”
Still, the Chicago police superintendent said that the chaos that unfolded downtown had apparently grown out of a shooting that took place on the South Side on Sunday afternoon. “Seeds” for the widespread looting were “sown,” David Brown, the superintendent, said, after police officers and a man shot at one another in the city’s Englewood neighborhood.
Around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, officers were called to investigate reports of a man with a gun, the department said. Officers confronted a 20-year-old man in an alley, he fled and then opened fire, the department said in a statement. “Officers then discharged their firearms, striking the offender,” the statement said.
The man, who was not identified, was “expected to survive,” Superintendent Brown, and no officers were hurt. The department said it had opened an investigation into the shooting.
After the shooting, a crowd in the neighborhood confronted officers, Superintendent Brown said.
“Tempers flared, fueled by misinformation as the afternoon turned into evening,” he said. “That grew and grew into the late-night hours.”
Then the police learned of a social media post about potential looting in the downtown, miles from where the shooting had taken place. More than 400 officers were quickly dispatched to the area, where they encountered people entering various businesses, vandalizing storefronts and smashing windows. In one widely viewed recording, police officers can be seen confronting a group of people in the street when someone hurled an object at one of the officers, striking him in the face. He and other officers then charged the people, who fled.
Officials said that 13 officers were injured, including one struck with a bottle and another whose nose was broken. A security guard and a civilian were struck during the unfolding violence, Superintendent Brown said, and both were taken to a hospital in critical condition.
By morning, the Chicago Transit Authority said that at least half a dozen bus and train lines were shut down “at the request of public safety officials.” Around 8 a.m. local time, service began to resume and the city lowered the bridges over the Chicago River. The city has raised the bridges several times this summer, in an effort to limit access to the city’s main business and shopping district during protests against racism and police violence.
Ms. Lightfoot said the looting and shutdown came as many businesses were struggling to try to get back on their feet after coronavirus-related closures, and urged the community to support their fragile recovery.
The officials said that a special team of investigators were looking through surveillance video to try to arrest more people who took part in the looting, which Ms. Lightfoot described as “straight-up felony criminal conduct.”
Dozens of police officers remained downtown on Monday. Business owners began to pick through the damage: cash registers overturned in a pharmacy, windows broken at high-end stores, empty boxes scattered outside a jewelry store.
Julie Bosman reported from Chicago, Christine Hauser from New York, and Johnny Diaz from Miami.