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Chicago's top cop defends police actions during protests

Don Babwin
Associated Press

Chicago — Chicago's police superintendent defended his officers' actions during weekend clashes with protesters, saying Monday that they continued to act professionally in the face of a “concerted effort” by those in the crowd trying to provoke a violent confrontation with police.

Video footage shows some in the crowd donning gas masks, changing clothes to hide their identities and putting up umbrellas, a tactic seen at recent protests that is meant to shield from view people throwing projectiles at officers, Superintendent David Brown told reporters.

“From what I saw, they only took appropriate action when confronted with violence," he said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the department's response to Saturday evening's protest that turned into a violent clash between demonstrators and police officers, saying officers quelled the violence quickly to protect peaceful protesters.

Chicago police use pepper spray on protesters at the corner of Randolph and Dearborn streets in downtown Chicago on Saturday. The protesters are looking to defund the Chicago Police Department and to abolish ICE.

But a number of activists and lawmakers have condemned the officers' actions, saying the officers were the aggressors.

“We would like to see an apology from the mayor's office and the Chicago Police Department ... for the violence they used to attack Chicago residents,” Berto Aguayo, executive director for Increase The Peace, told the Chicago Tribune.

Brown said police made 24 arrests and that four of those arrested were charged with felonies. Among those four were a 24-year-old man who was charged after he allegedly struck a uniformed officer with a bullhorn and a 25-year-old man who allegedly struck a officer with a skateboard. The other two were a 24-year-old woman who allegedly tried to steal a camera that had been pulled off an officer's uniform during the protest and an 18-year-old college student who was charged with aggravated battery after she allegedly twice tried to grab the arm of a high-ranking member of the department.

Prior to Monday's news conference, the department released a video that showed a man striking an officer with a skateboard. The move was part of a broader effort to get as many as people to see what happened during the protest and during Aug. 10 looting in downtown Chicago.

The department, which created what it called a Looting Task Force, announced last week that it was posting videos in the hopes that people would recognize those who smashed store windows, made of with merchandise and other items.

One of the first videos posted was of two men breaking into an ATM with a hammer. That video led to the arrest of a local man who police say livestreamed the crime. Arron Neal, 20, has been charged with felony counts of criminal damage to property and burglary.

At the same time, police have been releasing a flurry of news releases that include photographs of people who took part in last week's looting and mug shots of people who were arrested for allegedly doing so — a signal that the department is trying to make good on the mayor's vow to track down and arrest those who take part in street violence.

In all, Brown said tips from the public after those videos were posted have resulted in 11 arrests related to last week's street violence and looting.

Meanwhile, the overall weekend violence in Chicago wasn't nearly as widespread as it had been during recent weekends. Brown said that between 6 p.m. Friday and midnight Sunday, 51 people were shot, including five fatally, in 38 shooting incidents. He said four juveniles were shot but none of them were killed.