Illinois National Guard members to watch over Peoria

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Springfield, Ill. (WMBD) – Members of the Illinois National Guard are being deployed to Peoria to help local authorities respond to ongoing protests, Gov. J.B Pritzker said Wednesday.

Pritzker added five counties to the existing disaster proclamation to aid local jurisdictions, including Peoria, as well as Lake, Rock Island, Williamson, and Stephenson. 

According to Pritzker, these counties represent a threat for looting or destruction through planned protests, home to critical infrastructure, or where the state has received requests for state assistance or resources. The protests, including some acts of rebellion, come in response to the national outcry following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

On Sunday, the governor activated 375 Illinois National Guard soldiers for State Active Duty to assist the Chicago Police Department in protecting the City of Chicago and its residents. The Guard’s role will be supporting the Illinois State Police and local authorities in enforcing street closures around the city. 

An additional 250 soldiers were activated the following day to join the state’s civil disturbance response efforts to address the needs of various jurisdictions throughout the state. These soldiers represent a Quick Reactionary Force (QRF), staged at various Guard facilities throughout the state to await instructions from the Illinois State Police to help meet the needs of our local communities. 

These QRF teams are staged in Peoria, Kewanee, Chicago, Mt. Vernon, Springfield, and Scott Air Force Base.

To date, 15 counties are included in the current disaster proclamation.

Pritzker said all personnel deployed for operations will be outfitted with personal protective equipment, such as face shields and masks, to address the threats of our current COVID environment. 

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis says he wants to ensure the community this will assist police protect city businesses.

“We don’t have any information that says we’re going to have a huge spike in violence or anything else. At this point it’s preventive and it’s intentionally, hopefully, to take pressure off our police department,” Ardis said. “I think the community our size, the situations we’ve experienced over a couple of days, I think we’re fortunate to have them here. I think that the COVID testing site that’s manned by the National Guard is a huge resource for our community.”

Ardis says he and City Manager Patrick Urich had a conversation with Governor Pritzker’s office on Monday about the process of requesting the National Guard, but there was never an official request made.

Later in the week, Ardis says Police Chief Loren Marion was notified his department would be getting support.

“It’s an opportunity for us to utilize the services of the National Guard to supplement our police officers and give them a little bit of a breather and also take those folks that were securing some of those commercial locations and supplement our officers on the street,” Ardis said.

Ardis adds this will allow Peoria police officers to take some time off as many have been working an extreme amount of hours lately.

Lt. Col. from the Illinois National Guard says the National Guard is “bolstering the capability of local law enforcement on their request, in a supporting role. Helping free up law enforcement officers to do their jobs. Giving presence in front of key infrastructure.”

Illinois State Police spokeswoman Mindy Carroll says ISP is extremely grateful the National Guard is helping law enforcement out across the state.

Peoria Police did not provide a comment to WMBD Thursday regarding the Guard being in Peoria.

It is unknown how long the National Guard will be in Peoria.

This story will be updated.

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