Pritzker activates National Guard at Lightfoot’s request ahead of Derek Chauvin verdict

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that he is activating the Illinois National Guard — at the request of Mayor Lori Lightfoot — ahead of an expected verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused in the murder of George Floyd last year.

Guard members, along with troopers from the Illinois State Police, will be deployed to Chicago starting Tuesday to “pre-position and support the Chicago Police Department as needed,” namely managing street closures, the governor’s office said in a statement.

“It is critical that those who wish to peacefully protest against the systemic racism and injustice that holds back too many of our communities continue to be able to do so,” Pritzker said.

“Members of the Guard and the Illinois State Police will support the City of Chicago’s efforts to protect the rights of peaceful protestors and keep our families safe,” he said.

The case against Chauvin was sent to the jury Monday afternoon after attorneys finished their closing arguments.

Prosecutors argued that Chauvin murdered Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, while the defense said that the officer acted within his rights, chalking Floyd’s death up to an underlying heart condition and illegal drug use.

The incident last May sparked worldwide uprisings against systemic racism and police brutality, including in Chicago, where protesters regularly took to the streets throughout the summer. Though the majority of those protests remained peaceful, officers and demonstrators clashed on multiple occasions.

“Our greatest priority at all times is ensuring the safety and security of the public,” Lightfoot said.

“While there is no actionable intelligence at this time, we want to be fully prepared out of an abundance of caution. Our city has a long history of peacefully expressing its First Amendment rights and I encourage residents to exercise their rights to free speech this coming week thoughtfully, respectfully and peacefully,” Lightfoot said.

The announcement comes as Lightfoot also tries to manage the fallout of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Body camera footage released last week appears to show the boy dropping a gun and raising his hands at the command of an officer who chased him through a Little Village alley before shooting him once in the chest.

On Friday, over 1,000 demonstrators peacefully marched through Logan Square, where Lightfoot lives, in protest of the shooting.

After the march finished, officers and a handful of protesters briefly butted heads. Officers could be seen pushing and dragging protesters out of the way of police vehicles, and the scuffle ended with two arrests.

Contributing: Associated Press

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