Police had tough talk Monday for anyone thinking of celebrating an NBA championship with violence.
“There’ll be room at the jail,” superintendent Matt Rodriguez said.
“It’s ridiculous to end up in jail,” he said. “It’s stupid.”
Still, looting and burning have become about as routine in the wake of sports championships as victory parades, and Chicago has not been exempt.
In June 1992, after the Bulls won their second of three consecutive championships, rioters set fire to businesses and damaged police cars, city buses and subway cars. Damage was estimated at more than $10 million.
This year, Rodriguez said, as the possibility of another Bulls title turned into a near certainty, the city has tried to focus on prevention, working with business and community leaders to prevent violence.
The Chicago Housing Authority is sponsoring celebrations during Game 4 of the championship series against Seattle on Wednesday night, with prizes donated by the Bulls. If the Bulls, who lead the series 3-0, don’t wrap it up then, the parties will be repeated during Game 5 Friday night.
“I’m very optimistic,” Rodriguez said. “However, because of my position, I must be prepared for any contingency.”
To that end, police will post extra officers on the streets during the game Wednesday, 60 state troopers will be on hand to escort fire-rescue workers, and 200 National Guardsmen will be available on 2 hours’ notice.
City officials are hoping efforts at prevention, including public service announcements on television urging calm and a letter to area students signed by Bulls guards Michael Jordan and Randy Brown, keep the violence from approaching the level of 1992.
“Once the thing gets going, there is no controlling it,” Rodriguez said. “Everything lies in its path.”
Mayor Richard M. Daley said the preparations would cost the city more than $1 million.
Daley said rioters often target particular businesses at first but then get swept up in mob hysteria. “Once they target anyone, it basically affects the whole community,” he said.
For their part, the Bulls plan a celebration in downtown Grant Park, Daley said, but don’t want to announce their plans yet for fear of seeming presumptuous.