CHICAGO (CBS) — As looters were ransacking businesses throughout the city more than a week ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), one of her harshest critics, engaged in an angry and foul-mouthed argument over the city’s handling of the widespread violence.
During a conference call with all 50 aldermen on May 31 to discuss the city’s response to the looting, Lopez accused the mayor of being unprepared when looting spread from downtown to the neighborhoods that weekend. Looters pillaged shops throughout the city as peaceful protesters were taking to the streets on the last weekend in May in memory of George Floyd, who died as a police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes during an arrest on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
The mayor had convinced Gov. JB Pritzker to deploy 375 members of the Illinois National Guard to support Chicago police on May 31, primarily by helping restrict access to the Loop.
A source provided CBS 2 with audio from a conference call the mayor held with aldermen that day, in which Lopez said the mayor’s office needed to come up with a better plan to protect the neighborhoods in the coming days.
“When downtown is in lockdown, our neighborhoods are next, and our failure to fully get ready for what’s going on in the neighborhoods, we’re seeing this destruction, and we’re thinking that it’s going to somehow end tonight. We have seen where, in other cities, this has gone on for days; and we need to come up with a better plan for days, at least for the next five days, to try and stabilize our communities,” Lopez said.
Warning: The following audio file contains profanity. Audience discretion is advised.
The aldermen said parts of the Back of the Yards and Brighton Park neighborhoods in his ward had become “a virtual warzone.”
“We can’t expect our police, and I don’t fault them at all, to be able to control this,” he said. “Half our neighborhoods are already obliterated. It’s too late.”
Lopez said he feared looters would eventually start targeting homes after ransacking businesses throughout the city.
“Once they’re done looting and rioting and whatever’s going to happen tonight, God help us, what happens when they start going after residents? Going into the neighborhoods? Once they start trying to break down people’s doors, if they think they’ve got something,” he said.
“We know that people are here to antagonize and incite, and you’ve got them all pumped tonight, today. They’re not going to go to bed at 8 o’clock. They’re going to turn their focus on the neighborhoods. I’ve got gang-bangers with AK-47s walking around right now, just waiting to settle some scores. What are we going to do, and what do we tell residents, other than good faith people stand up? It’s not going to be enough,” Lopez added.
When Lopez finished talking on the conference call, Lightfoot declined to respond, and tried to move on to another alderman, but Lopez demanded an answer.
“It’s not something you ignore. This is a question that I have,” Lopez said.
That’s when the call turned profane.
“I think you’re 100% full of s***, is what I think,” Lightfoot said.
Lopez was infuriated.
“F*** you, then. Who are you to tell me I’m full of s***?” he said. “Maybe you should come out and see what’s going on.”
The mayor vehemently denied protecting downtown at the expense of the neighborhoods.
“If you think we’re not ready, and we stood by and let the neighborhoods go up, there’s nothing intelligent that I could say to you,” she said. “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I understand you want to preen.”
“Mayor, you need to check your f***ing attitude. That’s what you need to do,” Lopez shot back.
At that point, several other aldermen interjected in an effort to calm nerves, with one alderman telling Lopez, “Ray, cut it out, please. Calm down, please.”
In a phone interview with CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot on Monday, Lopez said many businesses that were lifebloods of his ward – which includes parts of Englewood, Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, and Gage Park – were looted or burned down that weekend; including at least two Walgreens stores, restaurants, and an entire strip mall at 59th and Ashland. The alderman also said the post office at 65th and Ashland was looted, and many people in Englewood have not received mail for about a week.
Lopez said looters methodically targeted virtually all parts of his ward throughout the day on May 31. He said many of the businesses hit by looters in his ward have since been cleaned up, and are now boarded up.
Lopez and Lightfoot have been at odds throughout her time in office, and he’s been one of the most consistent votes against her in City Council, having called her 2020 budget plan “bloated” and no more than smoke and mirrors. In April, the mayor reprimanded Lopez for using profanity during a City Council meeting when he voted “hell no” on an item up for consideration. Two days later, Lopez demanded the mayor similarly chastise other aldermen for an outburst of profanity at another meeting.
At one point during that second meeting, amid confusion during a series of procedural votes, an alderwoman could be heard saying “this is a total s***show,” apparently unaware her phone wasn’t muted.
At first, Lightfoot declined Lopez’s demand to admonish that alderman, but several minutes later, when Lopez brought it up again, the mayor noted “Our town and our city is watching. There are children that are watching. I would expect the members of this body to conduct themselves in an appropriate professional manner.”