UPDATED 2:50 a.m. | Looters rushed into the Target and Walmart stores in Normal early Monday, capping an evening that began with a peaceful protest but soon turned dark.
Normal Police were lined up outside the Target entrance late Sunday night. Demonstrators gathered in force about 11:30 p.m. as dozens of cars streamed into the parking lot. A crowd of at least 50 exited vehicles with many more left to the rear of the parking lot still in vehicles. They yelled profane chants and harassed police.
As the night wore on, the demonstrators became emboldened and began throwing water bottles, pieces of rock and brick and other materials at officers. The frequency of thrown objects splatting against riot shields increased. A store door shattered.
More law enforcement units arrived, peaking at more than 30. Some vandals attacked squad cars.
Police used pepper spray on at least one person that WGLT saw damaging a squad car. Law enforcement then pulled back as object throwing accelerated.
“It was a matter of officer safety. We had ourselves. We had State Police. We had Bloomington and county there. The crowd was too large. They started to pelt us with rocks, hammers, bricks. And at that point it was just too dangerous for staff. So, in the interests of their safety we had to leave,” said Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner.
As of 1:47 a.m. Bleichner said he did not believe any law enforcement officers were hurt.
Once police left under the barrage of thrown objects, looters hesitated a few minutes then invaded the Target store in Normal. The earliest in, apparently headed directly to the back of the store and the electronics section because those were the objects first to emerge.
A WGLT reporter at the scene saw looters exiting the store with shopping carts full of merchandise. Some pulled their cars up to the entrance to make for an easier exit.
Other stores also targeted
For a number of hours, police and would-be looters played a game of cat and mouse around Bloomington.
Crowds would head to a retail outlet and police would concentrate there; the crowd would move on. Eastland Mall security told WGLT around midnight Monday that the vandals had made several tries at Ulta. Police units also were stationed at area jewelry stores, and C.I. Shooting Sports in west Bloomington. Police at Best Buy said the vandals tested them early in the evening before moving to Target.
Looters also were spotted around 2 a.m. entering Walmart in Normal. Police said they were trying to block the entrances, but people were still getting in.
Other rumors circulating on social media, such as a fire at Walmart, were untrue.
Bloomington-Normal is now one of many American communities to experience looting and vandalism in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. His killing, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, has sparked widespread outrage and was the impetus for Sunday's NAACP peaceful rally outside the McLean County Law and Justice Center.
This story will be updated.
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