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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Little Village Neighbors Stand Guard At Street Corners: ‘They Don’t Want Anyone Looting Or Tearing Their Community Apart’

“COVID has really rocked our community, any more damage to our community is the last thing we want now," Pastor Matt DeMateo of New Life Center said.

New Life Centers outreach team were on the streets to help protect businesses along 26th Street Sunday.
Matt DeMateo
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LITTLE VILLAGE —  As word spread Sunday that two businesses were looted in the historic 26th Street corridor, Little Village residents chased out people damaging property and stood guard at street corners for hours to protect the business district.

Just after noon Sunday, at least two stores were targeted by people who pulled up, smashed windows, and made out with several shoes, said Pastor Matt DeMateo, executive director of New Life Centers, citing social media videos.

In the aftermath, DeMateo said neighbors, young adults, business owners and some gang-involved individuals united with police to “hold peace in the neighborhood.” More than 400 people kept watch over businesses along 26th Street, from Kedzie to Koster avenues, DeMateo said. 

“Guys in the neighborhood are out here protecting their own neighborhood saying ‘they don’t want anyone looting or tearing their community apart,’’’ DeMateo said. They are “making sure that if there is anyone coming through that thinks they are going to destroy any of the businesses they are not going to allow it.”

After a Saturday night that saw widespread damage to the Loop and River North, destruction and thefts from stores spread to Chicago neighborhoods Sunday.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city leaders were clear that those causing damage were not the same people who peacefully protested the killings of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) walked the 26th Street corridor for hours Sunday speaking with business owners, residents and community organizers. The looting occurred just outside his ward in the 12th Ward, he said.

“There are a ton of community residents that were out there in a sign of unity to support our businesses that are so important to our residents,” Rodriguez said. “I was so inspired today to see young people, and older people out there supporting our business district,” he said.

By Sunday evening, police had closed off 26th Street, he said.

“It’s been incredibly stressful,” Rodriguez said. “We are lucky to have a committed group of community-based organizations in the neighborhood…some of which have good working relationships with the police and that’s [playing] out today.”

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) could not be reached for comment Sunday night.

In a video posted on social media, a person is seen telling looters targeting a Game Stop to get out of the neighborhood. Another video shows police leading away a man in handcuffs by police as people can be heard saying: “We got this.”

DeMateo noted the property destruction and unrest comes as the community still is struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. The 60623 ZIP code, which includes Little Village, has recorded the highest number of positive cases in the entire state, with more than 3,000 cases, according to Illinois Department of Public Health statistics.

“COVID has really rocked our community, any more damage to our community is the last thing we want now,” DeMateo said. 

In the economic downturn from COVID, DeMateo said his group has been working to feed 6,000 families weekly. 

“We are not going to let another wave of looting and rioting come in and impact our community as well… The community is coming together… we are stronger together,” he said.

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