Washington Park Christmas tree to be replaced after targeted by vandals for 3rd year

Surveillance video shows a person walk by the tree moments before it went up in flames
CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Christmas tree in Washington Park will be replaced Monday after it was burned by vandals over the weekend.

City crews scoop up remnants of the Christmas tree Monday.

Nearly half the tree was burned and a holiday banner was also destroyed sometime overnight Saturday, according to My Block, My Hood, My City.

Washington Park Chamber of Commerce had a tree lighting ceremony near 55th Street and King Drive as part of a community celebration Saturday.

"We had a wonderful turnout. Children, family -- just excited about a tree lighting ceremony," said Donna Hampton-Smith, CEO of the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce.

However, early Sunday morning, around 5 a.m., the tree was targeted by vandals.

Surveillance video from a gas station across the street shows a person walking by the tree. Minutes later, the tree's lights were disconnected and smoke engulfed the intersection.

"We directed one of the cameras to the intersection to get the best image we can for the camera," said Mustafa Hammad Amstar gas station.

One side of the tree went up in flames, burning for several minutes.

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Mustafa Hammad said he was approached by Hampton-Smith, who asked him to help keep an eye on the tree.

This is the third year for a Christmas tree in Washington Park, and each year it was vandalized. Last year, it was also set on fire and in 2019 it was run over.

"I don't understand, why our community? Why our christmas tree? All we want to do is just have a wonderful time celebration. We want to bring a beautiful tree to our community and we don't know why a person would want to do this. It's just so unfortunate," Hampton-Smith said.

The Washington Park Chamber of Commerce said it's unfortunate but the tree will be replaced.

"When you do these things, how do you benefit? What are you gonna get out of it? What's your gain," Hammad asked.

"It's someone who's not really well, I think, who needs some help probably," Hampton-Smith added. "And as I stated before, I'm just praying for that person."

Plans are already in the works for another tree to be delivered this weekend, although it's not known yet whether it will be at this same location, or somewhere else.

It's the second setback this weekend, after volunteers decorating homes were robbed Saturday.

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Still, My Block, My Hood, My City said volunteers were able to light up more than 200 homes along King Drive.

They plan to be back out next weekend with security.

If you would like to sign up and volunteer with the organization, visit their website, formyblock.org.
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