Leaked audio revealed Chicago aldermen and Mayor Lori Lightfoot melting down on Sunday over their inability to stop violence and looting in their city.
Lightfoot held a conference call briefing all 50 aldermen on Sunday as the city descended into chaos and violence. The recording paints a raw picture of just how bad the rioting and looting became across Chicago — and just how helpless the city’s leaders were to stop it.
Here are the 17 most explosive quotes from the leaked audio (warning: explicit language).
- “People are just fucking lawless right now.”
Responding to an alderman who expressed dismay at widespread looting in her ward, Lightfoot became exasperated with the widespread violence. “This is a massive, massive problem,” the mayor said. “People are just fucking lawless right now.”
- “No offense but fuck you.”
Lightfoot took issue with Ald. Raymond Lopez after he criticized the mayor’s response and described his ward as a “virtual warzone.” The mayor initially ignored Lopez’s remarks until he demanded an answer. “I think you’re 100% full of shit, is what I think,” Lightfoot said. “No offense — fuck you, then. Who are you to tell me I’m full of shit? Maybe you should come out here and see what’s going on,” Lopez fired back.
- “I don’t have a pharmacy left.”
Ald. David Moore expressed dismay at the destruction that looters wrought in his district. He noted that other aldermen were talking “about securing the pharmacies. I’m glad you got some left,” he said. “I drove my whole ward all day, I don’t have a pharmacy left.”
- “Hundreds” of sites looted in a day.
Lightfoot told the aldermen on the call that “hundreds” of sites across Chicago were looted in a single day. “The number of sites that have been up and run over by looters today is in the hundreds. Hundreds,” she said. “It doesn’t make it feel any better. I’ve been on calls and text messages with people all day today who fought hard to bring economic development to areas of the city only to see the Walgreens, the CVS, the grocery store, everything vanished in an eyeblink … It’s going to take a herculean effort to convince businesses not to disappear.”
- “My ward is a shit show.”
“I just want to say, and I just want to tell you guys, my ward is a shit show. It’s cop cars burning, banks burning, we had to put the bridges up,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza said on the call. “I want to tell you, this kicked off this morning at 11 o’clock, it wasn’t a protest, it wasn’t anything like that. It was about 40 people that showed up in the dispensary lot, a dispensary most of you guys know it’s like getting in Fort Knox in there,” she added.
“There was people trapped inside, they were trying to break down the front door, and they were calling the police and the police couldn’t get there fast enough. The employees had to escape out the back door and they got in. They got in through four doors, bulletproof glass, they cleaned the place out … I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m scared. This is broad daylight … ” she continued, trailing off as she began crying.
- “I’ve been crying all day.”
Sadlowski Garza wasn’t the only alderman brought to tears by the widespread violence and looting. “I’ve been crying all day because this is something that we have not seen,” Ald. Derrick Curtis told his fellow city leaders. Lightfoot, too, said that she had repeatedly cried throughout the day on Sunday.
- “I’ve got over 10 videos of people shooting other people.”
One alderman grew upset at the boldness that Chicago residents showed, noting they displayed a total lack of fear in committing crimes. “I’ve got over 10 videos of people shooting other people,” she said. “It’s insane. Like broad daylight, they’re just shooting.”
- “I haven’t seen shit like this before.”
Lightfoot told the aldermen she had never “seen shit” like she had seen on Sunday. “I saw at 111th and Michigan [Ave.], a huge crowd gathered outside a clothing store, had to be 30 or 40 people, dude with a sledgehammer, a sledgehammer, trying to break through the metal barricade so people could loot,” she said. “I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen this shit before. Not in Chicago.”
- “People aren’t going to be able to get food.”
One alderman said she feared that the destruction of grocery stores and pharmacies would leave the city’s most vulnerable residents without food or medicine and asked about bringing the National Guard into the city to defend those businesses. “Is it possible to deploy the National Guard to secure our grocery stores, our pharmacies, at the very least?” she asked. “Because our elderly, our vulnerable populations, people aren’t going to be able to get food, get supplies, get their drugs.”
- “A war zone.”
Lopez said his district had turned into a “war zone” as gang members were taking neighborhood security into their own hands. “It’s just like a war zone right now … The gang members are now getting involved, walking around with AK-47s, threatening to shoot, I hate to say it, black people,” Lopez said, whose district, the 15th Ward, has a large Hispanic population. Lopez previously said in a May 31 tweet that members of the Latin Saints gang were “engaging and chasing looters” in his ward.
- “Far worse than it was in 1968.” Ald. Ed Burke, who WTTW noted was first elected in 1969, said the violence across the city was “far worse” than it was during the infamous 1968 riots. “This is far worse than it was in 1968,” said Burke, who went on to say the city needed more police officers to combat rioters and looters.
- “There aren’t enough cops.”
“Right now and I’m sure I echo what everybody else has said, there aren’t enough cops. We’re getting overwhelmed in this thing,” Burke said on the call. The mayor agreed. “It’s hard to fathom that we have 13,404 [officers], the highest headcount that we’ve had in probably a decade, and given the volume of looting, it feels like we’re a tiny police force,” Lightfoot said.
“Private citizens, they’re going to become vigilantes, they’re going to protect themselves, because the police aren’t reachable, there’s not enough men or women to respond when the call is made but the call doesn’t get answered,” Burke added.
- Looters “commandeering buses.”
Lightfoot told the aldermen that looters and rioters were “commandeering buses” to engage in crimes. “On the advice of [Chicago Transit Authority President] Dorval Carter of the CTA, we’ve stopped CTA services as of 10 minutes ago, until sometime in the morning,” the mayor said.
“We’ll give a final notification at 5 a.m. to let people know, but what we were seeing is people were commandeering buses, they were using the trains that were operational to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, and the CTA became a tool for the looters and the anarchists,” she added.
- 911 “not even answering the phones anymore.”
“I called 911 … they’re not even answering the phones anymore,” one alderman said. “I called 911 today too and wasn’t able to get through,” another added. Burke also said he was unable to reach emergency services throughout the day.
- “Half our neighborhoods are already obliterated.”
“I am simply not comfortable telling my churches, those people, to be intermediaries in a riot that is citywide,” Lopez said. “Half our neighborhoods are already obliterated … My fear is once they’re done looting and rioting and whatever’s gonna happen tonight, God help us, what happens when they start going after residents?” he added.
- Arsons were “planned in advance.”
The mayor said that many of the arsons were “planned in advance,” and said specifically that fires at pharmacies were orchestrated. “What I can say is this. We do believe some of this activity, also night and today, was absolutely organized and organized in part by people outside the city of Chicago,” she said.
“There’s no question that there are also forces that are inciting some of the things that we’ve seen manifest across the city and in particular the arsons that we’ve seen. We believe many of those are planned, they were planned in advance and strategic, particularly around the pharmacies,” Lightfoot continued.
- “Young girls” looting.
Moore said he was taken aback by the fact that “young girls” who didn’t appear to be involved in gangs were so involved in looting. “You see women out there, young girls, they’re doing it just as worse,” he said, “and these aren’t like gangbanger girls.”
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