Christmas Tree in Chicago Set on Fire and Destroyed Hours After Community Gathered for Lighting Ceremony

Beginning in 2019, the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce has hosted a Christmas tree lighting at Garfield Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive where the community can gather and celebrate the holidays and decorations. And every year, the tree has been destroyed, according to the chamber’s CEO Donna Hampton-Smith.

In 2019, someone ran over the display with their car, leaving pieces of their vehicle behind at the scene. In 2020, someone ripped down the banner in front of the tree. It was soon repaired, but after Christmas the tree was burned down.

Then, in the early morning after this year’s lighting ceremony Saturday evening, the tree erupted into flames. A surveillance camera at King Drive Mini-Mart, 368 E. Garfield Blvd., caught the moment the tree started burning.

The video is too grainy to see how the tree was set aflame, but Chicago police spokesman Thomas Ahern said a gasoline canister was found at the scene. CPD’s bomb & arson unit is investigating both this year’s and the 2020 fire as arsons.

“It’s an attack on our community, and it’s unfortunate that the incidents keep happening, and they have not been able to apprehend anyone,” Hampton-Smith said.

When she received the call Sunday that the tree had been destroyed, Hampton-Smith said she went out to survey the damage, describing it as “devastating.” They were forced to removed the charred remains of the tree.

Block Club Chicago first reported on the Christmas tree’s destruction Sunday.

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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, Sylvia Goodman

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