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Chicago Protesters Say Looting Overshadows Peaceful Demonstrations


These are the sounds of demonstrations across the U.S. last night.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) George Floyd. George Floyd.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: (Chanting) Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Don't shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: (Chanting) Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Don't shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: (Chanting) No justice.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: (Chanting) No justice.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: (Chanting) No justice.

KING: Those were protesters in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. It was the seventh night of demonstrations set off by George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. This morning, we look at one American city that's seen a lot of unrest - Chicago. Authorities there say they will aggressively prosecute people who are responsible for destruction and violence, but protesters are pointing out that many of them are peaceful. Kate McGee from member station WBEZ went to a protest last night. She brought us this.

KATE MCGEE, BYLINE: Thousands made their way around the North Side of Chicago Monday night.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #3: Everyone, follow me. (Chanting) Black lives matter.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Black lives matter.

MCGEE: Protest organizers warned participants, if they were seen throwing things, antagonizing police or using hate speech, they'd be asked to leave the demonstration. At one point, the thousands of protesters spilled onto Lake Shore Drive, the expressway that runs along Lake Michigan.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter.

MCGEE: Many feel news of looting in Chicago wrongly overshadowed coverage of peaceful protests like this one.

Chicagoan Astarte Howell.

ASTARTE HOWELL: I think if one bad apple doesn't make all cops bad, then a couple looters doesn't make all protests bad. And if we can extend that to our cops and this whole one-bad-apple theory, why can't we extend it to people who are protesting peacefully?

MCGEE: Howell says most people are expressing their anger in a constructive way.

HOWELL: But because a couple people riot, a couple people loot, all of a sudden it devalues the cause? Not to me.

MCGEE: At one point, the protesters took a knee in the street for over an hour and listened to speeches from black organizers sharing their pain and demanding change, demanding more accountability for police. Maddie Maloon, a graduate student, says it's up to peaceful demonstrators to make sure their message doesn't get distorted by those who are looting.

MADDIE MALOON: Those people are not on our side. They're trying to take away from what we're doing here, and we're not going to let them do that.

MCGEE: Essential worker Sharese Smith gestured to the crowd of protesters sitting quietly as they held signs and raised fists in the air.

SHARESE SMITH: There's two tracks going on here. This is the real thing. This is what needs to happen.

MCGEE: Smith does not condone looting, but she does wonder...

SMITH: Is that more important than the loss of black life?

MCGEE: As Chicago's 9 p.m. curfew set in for another night, the protest dispersed peacefully. An hour after the protest ended, looting broke out.

For NPR News, I'm Kate McGee in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kate is the education reporter at KUT, covering the Austin Independent School District, public, and higher education in Texas. She got her public radio start at Fordham University's WFUV. Her voice has been heard on the East and West coasts as a reporter and producer for WNYC and KUNR in Reno, Nevada. She has also appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, The Takeaway and more. In her spare time, Kate enjoys discovering new music, traveling and trying local beers.