Responses to Chicago Violence Highlight ‘Tale of Two Cities’ Narrative – Third Coast Today 08-10-18

Violence in Chicago communities doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and its causes and effects aren’t simply a matter of putting more police on the street. In Friday’s edition of “Today,” we take a closer look at the reactions to this week’s violence from politicians, and how proposed solutions and current tactics in use still ignore the larger problem of poverty and inequality.

We should also take a look at our city’s violence rates objectively. Doing that, we can note that even though Chicago’s numbers are high, this is a very big city. If you look at stats for murders per capita by U.S. city, Chicago is barely in the top 10. We’re #9 on a list headed by St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit.

Communities looking for resources to quell violence find heavy-handed tactics, victim-blaming instead

Former New York City Mayor and ardent Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani tweeted about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel again, praising state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) Thursday for saying Emanuel should work with Trump to combat Chicago violence.

“Thank God for State Rep. La Shawn Ford for saying unlike Mayor Emanuel that Chicago is not a Trump Free Zone,” Giuliani tweeted. “He’s invited the President to help. The Mayor and PC could also ask for the President’s help. Aren’t human lives bigger than political egos.”

After last weekend’s spate of violence where nearly 70 people were shot and at least 14 killed Ford said that Emanuel should be working closely with Trump.

“The mayor should be working closely with Trump,” Ford told the Sun-Times. “He should be working closely with the Labor Department, and he should be working with the U.S. HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development], the [U.S.] Surgeon General, because there’s so much trauma on the West and South sides of Chicago.”

Earlier this week Giuliani used the weekend violence to endorse Garry McCarthy in the upcoming 2019 mayoral election in a series of tweets.

Trump himself—who has barely spent any time in the city at large let alone neighborhoods affected by violence—also once again made comments about Chicago, telling a group of governors, staff, and attorneys general that nobody in the country could believe the level of violence that’s happening.

“We must strengthen community bonds with law enforcement, including cities like Chicago that have been an absolute and total disaster,” Trump said at a roundtable discussion on prison reform. “That’s bad stuff happening and probably I guess you have to take from the leadership,” Trump said. “There’s no reason in a million years that something like that should be happening in Chicago.”

Demonstrators march onto Lake Shore Drive at the Belmont onramp as part of an anti-violence protest on August 2. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Emanuel and city officials have been taking heat from all sides regarding last weekend’s violence. His political rivals, neighborhood residents, and community activists however, have criticized him from a different angle, pointing to the lack of resources and social services in neighborhoods rather than a lack of heavy-handed police tactics. Meanwhile Emanuel has downplayed these criticisms and instead attempted to put the blame on the communities themselves, citing a perceived lack of morals.

“There is a shortage of values about what is right, what is wrong, what is acceptable, what is condoned and what is condemned,” Emanuel told reporters in a press conference this week.

Chicago Police Department officials allege that analysis of last weekend’s violence shows that much of the shooting was tied to what they called “large unsanctioned gatherings,” otherwise commonly referred to as parties. According to department analysis, 20 percent of shooting victims last weekend attended block parties that were not officially permitted by the city. To address this, officials say they plan to target “unsanctioned” groups of people numbering 10 or more in about 30 different zones inside police districts on the South and West Sides.

“Years ago, a large gathering really had to be advertised for it to become a large gathering,” he said. “Now we’re having people livestream from a particular location — ‘We’re going to be having a party’ — and 10 people will turn into 200 just like that,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Despite the fact that this appears to be a heavy-handed tactic that has the potential to go wrong and end up with innocent people enjoying the summer in their neighborhood locked up or worse, Johnson attempted to quell such sentiment.

The goal is not to be out there arresting people because they are trying to enjoy the summertime. That’s not the goal. But once we say, ‘It’s time to move on,’ then it’s time to move on,” he said.

Trusting police on their word however, could be difficult for many communities, given the amount of police-involved shootings of civilians and other misconduct incidents, as well as other tactics that take place in economically disadvantaged and marginalized neighborhoods.

Police use “bait trucks” in neighborhood entrapment scheme

Chicago Police faced harsh criticism this week after two videos of the department using “bait trucks” went viral. Trucks carrying merchandise are parked in neighborhoods and then abandoned while police watch and wait for people to open them.

Despite video showing a large number of Chicago Police officers present and the trucks being parked more than a mile away from the nearest railyard, the Department referred inquiries by Block Club Chicago, who first reported the story, to the Norfolk Southern Railroad Police, who said it was a “joint surveillance operation to apprehend the individuals who have been breaking into freight containers at NS rail yards in Southside Chicago.”

Residents, community activists, and some city officials however, criticized the tactic for targeting already disadvantaged neighborhoods. One man arrested told police he had entered the trailer looking for food.

“This bait truck operation is an unacceptable and inappropriate use of police resources,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer said in a statement. “In a moment where police capacity is clearly under extreme strain, these sort of tactics are the last thing we should be spending manpower and energy on.”

Karen Sheley, the director of the ACLU of Illinois’ Police Practices Project, told Block Club the act was a “stunt.” “Police in Chicago must focus on building trust and better relationships within the communities they serve, not engage in stunts like bait trucks,” she said.

The city has seen high-profile protests over the summer that became national news where anti-violence demonstrators shut down major expressways.

Anti-violence protesters write messages in chalk on the street in front of Wrigley Field on August 2. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“In disadvantaged and challenged neighborhoods the cries of the people are ignored…in better neighborhoods they’re heard,” said Rev. Gregory Livingston at a protest last Friday where activists shut down Lake Shore Drive and later marched to Wrigley Field. “It’s a tale of two cities. One of the hardest things to do is inspire the uninspired. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out, have some skin in the game and get people to recognize that there are some people here that are trying to do something.”

Though the tale of cities narrative in Chicago has been bandied about by plenty of people over the past few years it seems that those in power unfortunately still refuse to truly understand or act on it.   

A deeper dive – Chicago’s Violence Is Fueled by Neoliberalism

“How dare Rahm blame us for the ineptitude of his department?” Maria Hernandez, a local community organizer, asked the publication Truthout in a story published Thursday analyzing the effects of Emanuel’s policy decisions on Chicago violence. “We are the ones dying and burying our families. Over here, police are as violent and lawless as the gangs, and get half the city budget only to produce the lowest solve-rate for murders in 30 years. We can’t increase access to the legal economy because all our city funds go to a failed police department.” You can read the full story here at Truthout.

Aaron Cynic
Aaron Cynic
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