Update: Chicago, nation remains on edge after night of rioting, looting

Looters hit stores around Chicago. (WMAQ-TV)

Riots hit downtown; spread to city neighborhoods and suburbs Sunday

National Guard called up

[Updated at 8:06 p.m.] 

The last 24 hours have been truly hellish for Chicagoans, and Americans nationwide.

Rioting and disturbances have hit cities across the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, and Chicago was no exception. The major cable news networks showed mayhem coast-to-coast from New York to Los Angeles, from Philadelphia to Denver, and everywhere in between. Cop cars were set on fire, and looters were seen breaking windows and taking merchandise. Curfews have been enacted in 25 cities (including Chicago) and the National Guard has been mobilized in fifteen states, including Illinois.

Saturday night, looters hit The Loop, River North, and South Loop areas. After I posted this article criticizing the media for the lack of response to the protests downtown, the major owned-and-operated stations and WGN-TV went all in on coverage at 8 p.m. as Mayor Lightfoot held a press conference. CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) was praised for their coverage last night featuring Jim Williams, with Dave Savini and Jermont Terry doing field reporting – each did an outstanding job.

Also getting positive shout-outs was ABC 7 (WLS-TV) reporter Will Jones, who interviewed four African-American young men on why they were protesting. It was indeed an honest and real conversation.

Many reporters were attacked across the country last night either from police or looters. Here in Chicago, a Tribune photojournalist was robbed of her equipment, but is okay

A WGN-TV news truck was also vandalized, but again, no injuries.

Downtown Chicago has all but been shut off, preventing any more mayhem. However, the violence and looting has spread to neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city and several south and southwest suburbs as well, with almost every shopping mall hit. As for my neighborhood in Avalon Park, looters have struck 87th Street and Stony Island quite badly, with drugstores, banks, and convenience stores hit. I’ve heard fire and police sirens and helicopters all afternoon long.

So far, media coverage has been decent, as local stations have carried press conferences from Mayor Lightfoot and Governor Pritzker. Earlier in the day, some viewers have complained about a lack of coverage in suburbs and city neighborhoods, in favor of downtown and River North. Local stations went to live coverage at around 4 p.m. As of 8 p.m., all local news stations are in live coverage around Chicago, pre-empting network programming. 

Widespread pre-emptions is affecting primetime programming tonight on the major networks, as ABC is rolling out season premieres for its summer game shows, while CBS is airing an Indiana Jones movie. National ratings – which are already low for many of these shows – are likely to be affected. There is also competition from the cable news channels, with non-stop coverage of the mayhem coast-to-coast. 

The real test comes right now as nobody knows how all of this will play out. It’s a nervous time for all of us – can the local media deliver? We’ll know soon enough as the Chicago area remains on edge.

Be safe out there, and pray for our city. 


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