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Chicago Wed Jul 08 2009

Skepticism on the Taste of Chicago Violence

I know it's generally bad to start a blog post with a bunch of caveats, but I'm going to do it anyway. I deeply respect Mike Doyle of Chicago Carless and the folks at Second City Cop blog. Mike especially has been a role model for me in the use of social networking to get out progressive messages and stories. I am a little worried about Mike's current mission, which is to dig out claims of more violence than reported at the Taste of Chicago/July 3rd fireworks.

I am fully prepared to accept the premise that Chicago authorities ever fearful of the Mayor's wrath, knowing that any snafus at the Taste this year could reflect negatively on the Olympic bid covered up violence at the Taste. I know also that violence is up across the city. To the extent that Mike and others are able to uncover official malfeasance and potentially sink the city's misguided Olympic bid, I'm all for it. To the extent that his reporting leads to individual and collective accountability, he's doing the Lord's work.

I'm also a bit nervous about what is more likely to happen whether or not any smoking gun is discovered by Mike, commenters on Chicago Now or other anyone else. Comments like "Gangster Disciples took over Buckingham Fountain" or "Latin Kings coming 50 deep up Congress" make me worry that the good work of uncovering official deception will be overwhelmed by the negative effects of the knee jerk "solutions" the city will come up with. How can we be sure that the large groups of young African-American or Latino men were gang members and not just, well groups of young men enjoying the Taste and fireworks? I have little faith in those who claim to have see gang signs being thrown, given the large number of NBA commentators who periodically go through conniptions of gang sightings every time a player throws up three fingers after making a three pointer.

I hope the majority of people who are banging this drum in the blogosphere are concerned with transparency in city government, using city funds to support public safety rather than developer subsidies and not reacting to a perceived invasion of downtown by young, boisterous, brown and black residents of the South and West sides. There's already enough criminalization of youth in Chicago without suspecting every group of black and Latino kids of being gang members.

As I said before, I know Mike pretty well and know that he would be strongly opposed to any sort of racial profiling or a city response to his work that negatively affects innocent young men from the South and West Sides. Sometimes, though, concern over neighborhood quality of life, safety, and comfort bring out the worst of even the most progressive minded, good-hearted people. All residents of the city of Chicago have a right to inhabit the city and enjoy its public spaces and events. That requires a strong, transparent, and accountable public safety presence by the city. It also requires that a lot of different people are able to occupy the same spaces without suspicion.


Mike Doyle / July 8, 2009 3:58 PM

Nice, measured, very much needed-to-be-raised piece. Thanks for covering this angle, Jacob. I've linked to this post from Chicagosphere and Chicago Carless both.

I think the gang members pretty much made a point of announcing themselves this year through verbal shoutouts, throwing signs, and in some cases clothing clearly labeled with gang affiliations. (Check YouTube for some very in-your-face videos from the Taste filmed by gang members.)

But I agree, black and hispanic Chicago youth should not be profiled merely for hanging out in their own downtown.

Ramsin / July 8, 2009 5:12 PM

It's the problem that goes back generations: the gangs bring the heat, and everybody suffers; but the more heat on the neighborhoods, the more fertile recruiting ground the gangs have.

The trick is to dry up recruiting for gangs; how do we do that?

Sorry, a bit off-topic.

Good reporting, Mike, and Jacob's note of caution is right on.

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