Despite significant looting and one gunshot death in nearby North Riverside on May 31 as well as major unrest in Cicero on June 1, Forest Park suffered relatively little damage.
The village imposed a curfew on Sunday and Monday nights, from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. and announced it would be in effect Tuesday night as well.
On Sunday, Walmart, Portillo’s and Dollar Tree on Roosevelt Road were closed. The Walmart parking lot was blocked off by police cars, and later barriers, to prevent entry. Overnight, the Forest Park Public Works Department blocked entrances to the Forest Park Plaza mall on Roosevelt Road, using large trucks.
By midafternoon on Sunday, Melody Winston, an executive at Living Word Christian Center, said they’d made the decision to shut down the mall entirely, including Living Fresh food store. “We want to make sure everyone’s safe,” she said.
Walgreens, on the corner of Harlem Avenue and Roosevelt Road, was attacked by looters on Sunday afternoon. According to Police Chief Tom Aftanas, the suspects briefly got inside the store via the back entrance but were stopped before too much damage was done.
By later afternoon, most of the restaurants and bars that had earlier been open for outdoor dining and drinks on Madison Street had closed, bringing their tables and chairs inside.
Brown Cow taped a sign next to their take-out window. “George Floyd matters. Black lives matter,” reads the sign.
U.S. Bank, on the corner of Madison Street and Desplaines Avenue, was broken into around 5:10 p.m. on May 31, reportedly by four suspects in an SUV. One broke a window on the bank’s Desplaines Avenue side to gain entry. That suspect was caught but couldn’t be identified and had nothing stolen on his person, so he could not be detained. The other three in the SUV were not apprehended.
A window at U.S.A. Beverage, 7200 Madison St., was broken, but the perpetrators did not gain entry. They took off in a car and were pursued by police to Harlem Avenue and I-290.
On May 31, Aftanas reported that looters in the Forest Park area appeared to be a convoy of cars driving around together, looking for businesses without a police presence to target.
“We are being as visible as possible to deter looting,” said Aftanas. He said multiple shifts were working to ensure coverage.
Aftanas said, “It is unbelievable what is happening.” He said he watched the video of George Floyd and wanted to see if in any way what the officer did could be understood.
“Why would the officer do that?” asked Aftanas. “Is there any justification at all?” The answer, he said, is no.
“There is no justification for what happened, and there is no cop in Forest Park who thinks so,” said Aftanas.
Aftanas said officers will continue to be vigilant, especially during the overnight hours.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian, who was seen by the Review throughout Sunday afternoon on Madison Street and around town, said he’d been in contact with the businesses on Madison Street to make sure they were aware of the conditions in neighboring towns and the threats in Forest Park. He reiterated what Aftanas had said, that the looters appeared to be “very mobile” and in cars, driving around looking for targets.
On Sunday, Hoskins said he’d spent hours stationed outside a local liquor store, since liquor stores seemed to be a prime target for criminal activity.
“The more eyes on the street the better,” said Hoskins, who was ready to call Forest Park police if anything suspicious happened.
He said he’d been in contact with Aftanas, Gillian and other village officials through the day and that Forest Park had been coordinating well with neighboring police departments.
Hoskins said the biggest targets appeared to be the big stores, like Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, and extra police presence was maintained in those areas and all areas in town.
“This situation is disturbing,” said Hoskins on Sunday. “We have a pandemic and now we have unrest. I urge people stay indoors.”
On Monday, June 1, Walmart was still closed, the parking lot still blocked off. Dollar Tree was also closed, though Portillo’s once more sported a long line of cars in its drive-thru.
In the interest of safety, District 91 did not offer bagged lunches for students, though food was provided at both Proviso Math and Science Academy and at Proviso East.
Famous Liquors, 7714 Madison St., Cardinal Wine and Spirits, 7533 Roosevelt Road, and Forest Park Auto, 7535 Roosevelt Road have boarded up their windows and closed early as a precautionary measure, but no looting has happened at any of these locations.
Walmart, 1300 Desplaines Ave., was closed again on Tuesday, June 2. Curfew was announced Tuesday morning, in effect from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. on June 3.