Chicago, IL – Chicago police were working to identify the dozens of students who trashed a Walmart on Wednesday, during National Walkout Day to protest gun violence (video below).
Videos posted on social media showed between 40 and 60 students from Simeon Career Academy going on a rampage in the Walmart store nearby the school during the 17 minutes students were supposed to have used to peacefully protest the deaths of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Valentine’s Day.
Police said the students vandalized parts of the store, knocking over product displays, pulling merchandise off of shelves and throwing it on the floor, breaking packages, and stealing smaller items like chips and candy, WFLD reported.
In a video posted to YouTube after “peaceful protest” ended, customers ranted over the condition the store was left in by the students.
“I don’t think I even want to shop in here now,” the woman filming the video of the trashed store said over and over again, as she wandered through the aisles where toppled merchandise lay in puddles of juice on the floor.
“And they’re apparently doing this to stop violence. But they just committed a violent act,” a Walmart employee told the customer from off camera. In the video, employees could be seen trying to clean up the mess and reconstruct displays all over the store.
A Chicago police spokesman told WFLD they're reviewing what he referred to as "high quality" video surveillance from Walmart to identify the students involved in the mayhem, as well as searching the numerous videos posted to social media that were filmed during the chaos.
Students who are identified will likely be charged with misdemeanors and face discipline from the school, police said.
“They pretty much trashed this whole area,” GameStop manager Robert Owens told Blue Lives Matter on Thursday.
Witnesses said the students harassed customers and employees in the businesses in the strip mall.
“Things started out cool,” a Potbelly Sandwich Shop manager, who did not want to be further identified, told Blue Lives Matter. “But then some of the guys started yelling, threatened the employees, and said they were going to come back [into the kitchen area] and make their own food.”
There were at least 50 teens in the eatery at one point, and they came inside in groups of 10 to 15 at a time, he said.
The manager noted that Potbelly’s also serves many elderly customers, some of whom were in the shop when the students began wreaking havoc.
He said that the students’ behavior and vulgar language was “disrespectful,” and that the Potbelly’s employees were ultimately forced to contact Chicago police as the teens’ antics escalated.
The students were escorted out of the restaurant by law enforcement before they caused any physical damage to the business, the manager said.
Meanwhile, at a nearby GameStop, alert employees began to grow concerned as approximately 20 teens began milling around the store without making any purchases, Owens told Blue Lives Matter.
Owens said that the students moved through the area outside the store in a “huge, single-file line.”
GameStop employees were able to clear out customers, and locked up the business before problems arose, he said, adding that nearby stores were not so fortunate.
According to an anonymous J&J Fish and Chicken employee, the students attacked a delivery truck outside of the restaurant, and stole numerous Arizona-brand drinks that were being delivered to the business.
“There was no trouble inside, just outside,” the employee told Blue Lives Matter.
The Potbelly’s manager said that the shop has experienced problems with Simeon students in the past, usually due to fights. In light of Wednesday’s events, the business may require students to be accompanied by adults in order to receive service, he said.
Video of the teens trashing the Walmart store initially went viral, but it was taken down several hours later.
A Walmart store manager told Blue Lives Matter that he was not allowed to provide any information regarding the incident.
Watch the video a customer made in the immediate aftermath of the vandalism below: