Seven years ago, long before the coronavirus locked America indoors, Chicago was menaced by repeated incidents where shoppers downtown faced huge throngs of teenagers -- bashing each other and, often, anyone in their paths.
The most notable example came on Easter weekend of 2013, when hundreds of youths descended on the Magnificent Mile.
"It's saddening, really it is," one man told NBC 5. "It's scary as well!"
Others expressed anger.
"I pay $17,000 in property taxes," one woman said, watching as police herded zip-tied suspects into a squadrol. "And I'm sick of it!"
Moving with astonishing speed and responding to weary downtown merchants demanding action, lawmakers quickly moved to pass legislation to address the violence. Senate Bill 1005 passed overwhelmingly, calling for stiff penalties for anyone convicted of using social media to instigate or organize so-called "mob action."
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law during a Michigan Avenue ceremony May 18, 2003.
"By having strong penalties against bad behavior and wrong conduct, I think it sends a strong message," Quinn said. "If you do wrong, you're going to suffer a serious penalty."
The measure would seem to have been tailor-made for charging suspects from Monday's Michigan Avenue attacks, many of which were allegedly coordinated through online posts. But now, in the wake of this week's looting of Michigan Avenue and other areas of River North, some merchants are asking whatever happened to that law.
Among the sponsors at the time were Sen. Kwame Raoul, who is now the Illinois Attorney General, and Rep. Christian Mitchell, who is now a deputy governor in the administration of Gov. JB Pritzker.
A spokesman for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx noted the 2013 bill was a sentencing enhancement for the offense of mob action, allowing prosecutors to seek an extended term in prison should an offender be convicted.
"Where appropriate in the prosecution of these cases, the CCSAO (Cook County State's Attorney's Office) will seek this and all other relevant sentencing enhancements."
When asked how many of this week's suspects were charged with mob action, the answer was, none of them. Of 43 charged, 1 faces charges of attempted murder, 28 burglary/looting, 5 aggravated battery/resisting police, 1 theft, 1 criminal damage to property, and 7 for gun possession.
The spokesman suggested that when the cases are indicted, additional charges such as mob action might be added, but that it is a lesser felony than some that have already been charged.
"Attempted murder, aggravated battery to a police officer, and burglary are all higher class felonies and carry higher potential penalties than mob action, even where a judge imposes an enhanced sentence," the spokesman said.