June 2 Committee of the Whole meeting includes extensive report
by Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (June 6, 2020) – “Communities across the country are continuing to grieve and to protest following the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” said Lansing Village Administrator Dan Podgorski during Tuesday night’s Village Board of Trustees Committee of the Whole meeting. “This past Sunday, on May 31st, those protests turned violent, and our town was directly impacted, as were a number of other south suburban municipalities. Probably two to three dozen of our businesses were targeted and suffered some losses.”
Podgorski said this as a preface to an information-sharing portion of the meeting that included words from Police Chief Dennis Murrin, Public Works Director Gary Richardson, Mayor Patty Eidam, and others concerning the violence in Lansing that occurred on Sunday, May 31.
“Sunday was a difficult day—one I’ve never seen. I’ve been with the department for 35 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life,” said Chief Murrin. He went on to describe the actions of looters as “complete and utter chaos.”
According to Murrin, violence started in Calumet City around noon. The Lansing Police Department (LPD) came to River Oaks Mall to help. The violence soon traveled south down Torrence into Lansing.
“They came in droves,” Murrin said, estimating that 20–40 cars, full of 3–4 people each, came into Lansing. “These were not protestors, these were not demonstrators, these were just people hell-bent on doing damage,” he said.
“I don’t believe for one minute that any of those 20 or 30 cars…were Lansing residents,” Murrin said.
According to Mayor Eidam, Tops and Bottoms, a clothing store in The Landings shopping center, was the first to be looted. Chief Murrin also mentioned Burlington in the Landings, Walmart, AT&T, the BP Amoco gas station, the Citgo gas station, Unitek, and the Walgreens on Ridge and Torrence were also hit. More information on businesses targeted is included in our May 31st article.
“Some businesses were hit harder than others,” said Murrin. “Those that had smaller items like cell phone stores—where people can just reach in, grab a bunch of them, and leave—suffered some monumental loss.”
Murrin said the 911 center in Lansing usually answers 250-300 calls a day. Between 11am and 11pm on Sunday, it answered over 675 calls.
Murrin said LPD “started getting a little bit of good ground” around 4 pm when they were able to get businesses secured. LPD officers asked many businesses to close.
“The strategy became gain the property, secure the property, and don’t leave it,” said Murrin, who remembered nearing Walmart with his siren on and seeing about 30 demonstrators running out of the store having broken the windows but not stolen merchandise.
As part of this strategy, Public Works employees positioned vehicles in many business’ driveways to prevent cars from getting through.
Public Works Director Gary Richardson was proud of his crew and said, “We had some men that were willing to put themselves side-by-side with Lansing PD.”
Murrin said that although there were many looters in Lansing, the LPD was able to make only one arrest. He said, “Every store had 10 to 15 people coming out of it with one officer responding to each location sometimes, and the officer was overwhelmed…. I wish I could say we had 600 arrests that day, but they just didn’t materialize.”
According to Murrin, two officers sustained minor injuries throughout the day, one who was clipped by a car and another who was pushed by looters into his squad car, resulting in minor injuries to his head and wrist.
After Richardson and Murrin spoke, Mayor Eidam gave some brief notes on her experience with the situation. In the morning on Monday, June 1, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton’s office contacted the Mayor’s office and requested that the Lt. Governor come to Lansing and see some of the damage. With a police presence, Mayor Eidam and Lt. Gov. Stratton visited Tops and Bottoms together the same day.
Mayor Eidam said, “Following the Lieutenant Governor’s car driving down Torrence Avenue, there were so many emotions. You’re so proud because our guys stopped [the violence]. It could have been so much worse. And on the other hand, we feel so bad for our business owners, for our residents that depend on those businesses. Some of them may not come back.”
Earlier in the evening, Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust was the first to make mention of the national unrest following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers. He said, “It’s no secret…that there have been repercussions from the death of George Floyd—his death on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a tragedy and I’m glad we live in a Village where our citizens can make their voices heard in peaceful protest. And I think I speak for the Village Board, that we also condemn those who would capitalize on this tragedy by rioting and looting.”
After thanking LPD and Lansing Public Works, Trustee Hardy said, “We all need to get together and work our differences out, and I truly hope that this can happen because, you know, some changes do need to be made.”
Trustees Manno and Grady-Perovich also thanked Village employees for their response to Sunday’s looting.