UPDATED 3:40 p.m. | Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said police in Bloomington-Normal have decided against issuing a curfew for now, following the extensive property damage done by looters at several businesses, but he said that could change if signs point to an escalation.
"The human costs associated with a curfew are certainly in excess of any possible advantages that might be," Renner said. "If last night was an aberration, we don't need a curfew this evening.
"If there was some follow-up of issues or problems, then we would reconsider."
Renner added the decision was made jointly by Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath and Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner and that he and Normal Mayor Chris Koos agreed with the move.
Police officers were sent scrambling throughout Bloomington-Normal late Sunday night and early Monday morning trying to minimize property damage.
Koos built on a recommendation that public health officials have been urging for weeks during the coronavirus pandemic and said this provides another reason to not go to public places for now unless it’s necessary.
“The best advice is to stay home for a day,” Koos said. “The police will be more proactive on how they handle these issues. Last night was reactive because no one saw it coming.”
Renner said he was shocked to witness the destruction that he said was caused by a small subset of those who attended the racial justice rally earlier in the day in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
"It's really, really unfortunate that a demonstration, probably 99% of the people who were there for the right reasons and are committed to the non-violent principles of Dr. (Rev. Martin Luther) King and then you have a very small minority who create this kind of pandemonium," Renner said.
Renner said it's likely the looting had been planned in advance, but may have gained momentum after a motorcyclist drove into a crowd of demonstrators after the rally.
"That certainly motivated some people who were on site to probably do things they would not have normally done," Renner said.
Koos described the property damage as mostly “opportunistic theft and vandalism,” caused by mostly young adults is something many took for granted wouldn’t descend upon Bloomington-Normal.
“People always say that wouldn’t happen in our community. Well, it did,” Koos said.
Koos said he witnessed some of the mayhem outside of the Target store on Sunday night and saw the looters seeming to be having fun, laughing and taunting.
“I was kind of disgusted by that,” Koos said. He said he believed there was no apparent connection between the vandals and the peaceful protesters who rallied and marched in Bloomington earlier Sunday.
“It diminishes the image of our community, but I know that the NAACP and Not In Our Town certainly have no tolerance for that kind of behavior, nor does most of the community,” Koos said.
Renner agreed the looters' behavior was unacceptable and suggested the police department will be better prepared for any unrest going forward.
"We will not be caught unaware as this time. We are not going to be surprised by this," Renner said.
"The people that are responsible for this, I hope we can find out the leaders and frankly, even the people who went in," Renner said. "We've got camera footage."
The Target and Walmart stores in Normal were at least two businesses in Bloomington-Normal in which looters got inside and made off with merchandise.
Officers from Bloomington, Normal, the McLean County sheriff’s office and State Police blocked off access to several stores Sunday night and early Monday morning in an effort to contain the outbreaks. Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said early Monday that his officers did not engage with the looters out of concerns for their own safety.
There are no reports of arrests or any injuries.
Bloomington and Normal police departments haven’t yet provided details on the extent of the property damage. It was not confined to major retail outlets.
Annie's Eats Carry Out and Catering, 606 N. Clinton St., Bloomington reported several of its windows were smashed overnight.
BPD spokesperson John Fermon said its officers responded to eight burglary or criminal damage to property calls from 11:20 p.m. Sunday through Monday morning and more reports are still coming in.
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