Peoria Weighs Curfew After Chaotic Night of Violence, Looting
Eleven arson fires. 23 ShotSpotter alerts. 87 rounds fired. Nearly 50 business burglaries. Two people shot. And a Peoria Police Officer seriously injured in a traffic accident. That's Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion III's tally of the chaos which took place in the overnight hours.
"We were prepared, but I honestly didn't think it would be the way it did. We have a good, strong community here," said Marion. "And it really disappointed me in the response that we saw last night with what was taking place here."
Several big box stores closed early Sunday evening amid social media rumblings of civil unrest, and Peoria police officers blocked off access to several major commercial areas, such as Northwoods Mall.
But around 11:40 p.m., incidents began breaking out. Marion pinned the blame on a "caravan" of between 20 to 60 vehicles driving recklessly across the city. He said he believes the caravan was pre-planned, but was unsure if it was homegrown or if the caravaners came from out of town. Those incidents continued until about 6 a.m.
Several other cities, including Champaign, Decatur, and Bloomington-Normal, also reported violence and looting overnight.
Marion said there are discussions of imposing a curfew. That would be a decision made between Marion, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, and City Manager Patrick Urich. The Peoria City Council is slated to hold an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. Monday.
The chief said the enforcement of a curfew is still a matter of discussion.
The vandalism and looting throughout Peoria was part of larger nationwide civil unrest after George Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.
"What's happening in our city, our state, and our nation, is beyond horrendous and repulsive," said Ardis.
Officials made clear they support peaceful demonstrations, like the large "We Matter March" held Saturday afternoon in downtown Peoria, and again Sunday evening in front of the Peoria Police Department. Those peaceful protesters aren't connected to the violent overnight activities. Marion said he plans to meet with the organizers of that rally soon.
"We want everyone to know we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who want to work for change through constructive dialogue, and achieve equity for everyone," said Ardis. "We support this objective, and will work tirelessly to achieve that success."
But Ardis said that doesn't extend to lawlessness.
"There is no playbook for what our country is experiencing, but we are committed to keeping our businesses, our residents, and our first responders safe," said the mayor.
Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos said several people arrested overnight face criminal charges.
"If you want to peacefully protest, and you want to advocate for change, we absolutely support you. We support you," said Hoos. "But if you want to break into businesses and set fires to businesses or other areas, or shoot people, or resort to other violence? We will charge you."
Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said more arrests are a source of concern at the county jail.
"Don't forget, we're still in the middle of a health pandemic, as well, too," he said.
Hoos also asked business owners to call police if there are problems.
"Do not take the law into your own hands. It only gets worse from there," she said.
Marion said police are admittedly tired, but will continue to protect the community.
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