The Summer of Protests
The summer came and went for most journalists since the majority of time was spent covering action on the streets. Since the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man by Minneapolis police, Chicago was rocked by a wave of looting and then weeks of street protests that are continuing into the fall. I covered the majority of them for the Washington Post. I was downtown the Saturday when a peaceful protest turned into a full-scale run of looting in the city’s central business district. Then, starting Sunday, I spend every night of the week following the looting as it traveled to the West Side and then the South Side.
The protests for police reform continued through the summer — in downtown Chicago, on the West Side starting in Homan Square, along Lake Shore Drive, and an aborted attempt to close the Dan Ryan Expressway. All of them are up on the Post site. Here’s a story I wrote for the Post on the divisions that are emerging among different activist groups, starting from a confrontation at the Dan Ryan protest between the group that organized it and another that blasted them as misguided.
Local officials are being tested. Among them is Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, currently running for a second term, who is being criticized for her progressive approach to prosecuting some of these cases. Katie Shepherd in Portland and I shared a byline in the Post about the scrutiny prosecutors in both cities are getting as calls to get the looting and unrest under control continue. Those calls came hot and fast in Chicago when the second wave of looting took place in the downtown business district after midnight during a Monday in August. I got there around 2 a.m. and witnessed the rampant looting, from the Gold Coast to the Loop. The next day Katie Shepherd and I shared another byline on the increase in looting in both our cities.
Then came Kenosha. I arrived the day after police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the black following the outdoor birthday party for one of his children. I talked with witnesses and then went downtown where I witnessed a protest grow into a riot that spread into the neighborhoods, namely Uptown, a working-class area where the majority of its business district was looted and then torched. I followed the looters for an hour until I ended up in Uptown where I stood with neighbors at 2 a.m. watching the businesses they depend on burning.
On Tuesday, Post videographer Whitney Leaming and I got caught in the middle of the violence that left two men dead and one wounded in the street. Whitney captured what we saw here. Witnessing that event, after watching it build 30 minutes prior, was something I hope never to go through again.
I was in Kenosha through late Wednesday and then periodically after that, including the day the following week when President Donald Trump showed up in Uptown to tour the devastation. The crowd that greeted him? Mixed–many supporters, but many others who wished he stayed home as the city needs time away from the spotlight to heal.
I filed before, during, and after the violence and all of it is posted on the Post site, some of it archived here. I also got the opportunity to tell the story at the invitation of other media outlets, including WBEZ in Chicago, the CBC in Canada, the ABC in Australia, radio shows in New York and California, and Ben Joravsky’s podcast for The Chicago Reader.