Chicago police and other city departments said Thursday they have been devising plans over the past few months to “respond to any situation” on the city’s streets for the upcoming presidential election, including civil unrest.
The contest between President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, promises to elicit strong emotions from both sides of the political arena.
With 19 days until the election, city officials spoke to reporters mostly in generalities about their plans at an afternoon news conference Thursday. But they sought to assure the public they’re better prepared than they were earlier this year when peaceful demonstrations gave way to looting and vandalism on Chicago’s streets following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.
“Practice, practice, practice makes perfect. And yes, we’re talking about practice,” said Chicago police Superintendent David Brown. “Our drills really integrate all of our city services, not just police, not just fire, but all of our city departments working together so that we can have the best response regardless of whatever scenario happens on Election Day.”
Brown said there was a “coordinated effort” over the summer by “agitators” to embed themselves in peaceful demonstrations and cause trouble, which is something police will be monitoring for the Nov. 3 contest. Brown said he has no plans to impose departmentwide cancellations of time off for the election.
Instead, only select units in the 13,000-member Police Department will be commanded to work and the shifts extended, he said.
“Everything is uncertain,” Brown said. “And so we’re trying as best we can to anticipate any hazard that might happen, including a weather hazard. Snow might happen in our city. Along with anything related to protests, embedded agitators that might loot or cause violence or destroy property.”
So far, he said, there have been no credible threats to the city ahead of the election.
Rich Guidice, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said his department has been meeting with business leaders who no doubt have concerns about the unrest that flared up beginning in late May and again in August, when groups looted stores downtown and in some neighborhoods, and caused other disturbances.
“Over the last few months, we have been performing drills and holding workshops to be ready to respond to any situation or possible event that should occur in the city before, on and after Election Day,” said Guidice. “This includes both retail corridors in the central business district and throughout city of Chicago (neighborhoods).”
Thousands of angry protesters took to Chicago’s streets following Trump’s victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2016. Groups gathered throughout downtown and outside Trump Tower in an angry show of opposition.
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