CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday he would activate 125 personnel from the Illinois National Guard to stand by to support the Chicago Police Department as a verdict is expected in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Closing arguments took place Monday in Chauvin’s trial with a prosecutor telling jurors that the officer “had to know” he was squeezing the life out of George Floyd as he cried over and over that he couldn’t breathe and finally fell silent. Chauvin faces murder and manslaughter charges.
The defense argued that the now-fired white officer acted reasonably and that the 46-year-old Black man died of an underlying heart condition and illegal drug use.
Last summer, bystander video of Floyd gasping that he couldn’t breathe as bystanders yelled at Chauvin to get off him triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious examination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Members of the Illinois National Guard will deploy to Chicago beginning Tuesday to pre-position and support the Chicago Police Department as needed, the governor’s office said.
Their mission was described as “limited,” aimed at helping to manage street closures, and Pritzker’s office said they would not interfere with peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights.
“At the request of Mayor (Lori) Lightfoot, I am activating members of the Illinois National Guard to support the city in keeping our communities safe,” Pritzker said. “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. 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.”
Lightfoot said the city’s greatest priority was ensuring the safety and security of the public.
“While there is no actionable intelligence at this time, we want to be fully prepared out of an abundance of caution,” she said. “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."
Pritzker also directed the Illinois State Police to support the Chicago Police Department with additional troopers. The troopers will work closely with the Chicago Police Department and other local law enforcement, his office said.
Soldiers assigned to this mission are from the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Military Police Battalion. These individuals are specially trained in riot control operations, the governor’s office said.
The Associated Press contributed.