WICKER PARK — Wicker Park businesses along Milwaukee Avenue were decimated by looting Sunday — and while police caught some looters in the act, 911 calls across the city went unanswered.
From Target to Foot Locker to Carhartt, looters targeted big box corporate chains in the neighborhood. But they also hit family-owned independent shops.
The Ruby Room and Division Street Liquors on Division Street were looted in broad daylight earlier on Sunday. Thieves hit small stores on the outskirts of Wicker Park, too; Loop Liquors, Polonia Liquors and St. Lucia’s Smoke Shop were also hit.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said on Sunday at least 20 businesses were hit, but that the number could have been higher.
Pamela Maass, director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, said Monday she estimated between 40 and 60 of the neighborhood’s 1,500 businesses were looted.
He distinguished the looting from groups of peaceful protesters who marched up and down Milwaukee Avenue. People looting were smaller groups and appeared to be coordinated, using protesters as a “shield,” Hopkins said.
“It’s hard and our hearts go out to all of these business owners,” she said. Business owners who need help can email firstname.lastname@example.org to let the chamber know their clean-up needs.”
As neighbors reported looting and gunfire, Hopkins said local police were overwhelmed.
“The system is over capacity and has, for all intents and purposes, broken down,” Hopkins said on Sunday. “We’re all just trying to do the best we can during a situation that no one was fully prepared for.”
Late Sunday night and early Monday morning, A Block Club reporter witnessed groups of people driving up the boutique-lined street in cars, hopping out to steal clothes by the bundle from stores with already busted-out windows.
At Ragstock, 1459 N. Milwaukee Ave., police officers made a woman return clothing she stole from the business.
At about 9:30 p.m., neighbor Carlos Soto stood guard outside Personal Privilege, 1442 N. Milwaukee Ave., after seeing people looting at his friend’s streetwear shop. He jumped out of his car to scare people who were stealing.
At 12:45 a.m., Soto was still outside keeping watch. At Ragstock just across the street, people took arms full of clothing from the store. A Block Club reporter witnessed the scene.
Police officers arrived and stopped one car, telling them they would allow them to leave if they returned the stolen items and promised to go home.
“It’s total destruction. Our city is not where it needs to be right now,” Soto said. “I just want this to stop. There’s a lot of things we need changed here but that’ll be another day.”
Around the corner, on Damen Avenue, people were still popping heads into shattered glass doors. Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau, who owns Dimo’s Pizza at 1615 N. Damen Ave., was already sweeping and shoveling up shattered glass in front of other storefronts.
“I think it’ll bounce back strong. Look, it’s not even an hour since it happened and already people are cleaning,” he said.
Syrkin-Nikolau lives just around the corner. He was sweeping up glass with two other neighbors he had never met before the looting Sunday.
“I was happy to meet you guys, because you guys wanted to fix it and make it better,” Syrkin-Nikolau said to the couple as they shoveled the glass into boxes.
Keith, a man helping clean up glass, said he understands the anger.
“I understand the anger … There’s a systematic disease in the system that obviously has to be addressed,” he said.
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