By Patrick Forrest
Following days of massive peaceful protest throughout the city that ended with nights of looting and hundreds of arrests leaving many businesses boarded up and hollowed out, residents in Chicago’s largely Hispanic neighborhoods such as Back of the Yards, some gang members, have taken to the streets to enact vigilante justice against suspected looters.
Following the gang vigilante shooting of an African American Back of the Yards resident, Alderman Raymond Lopez of the 15th ward, partially comprised of Back of the Yards and West Englewood, asked Sheriff Tom Dart to assist in regaining control of the community.
”I am proud to represent a ward that includes people of every background working towards a common good,” said Lopez. “African Americans, Latinos, Asians, white ethnics all want the same thing: good schools, safe neighborhoods, and employment opportunities. This is who we are.”
Unfortunately after making his statement and calling for continued peace, gang members were continuing to engage looters. Lopez has been actively pushing back against the vigilanteism.
“Blacks live in Latino communities. Latinos live in Black communities. Don’t act like you’re checking IDs to see who lives where when ‘defending our hood,’” Lopez said. “We need to call out everyone using this as an excuse (whites and Asians too) to harm someone else.”
Lopez shared his concerns with aldermen Sunday evening about the dangers of allowing this to continue. Prior to the start of an evening recap, Lopez told aldermen that while it might sound good that people are stepping up, the danger of gangs patrolling communities using skin color as an identifier would be very dangerous.
However, Lopez’s calls for restraint have fallen on deaf ears, yet again.
At approximately 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, a 49-year-old resident traveling home with his daughter and son-in-law were approached by a juvenile gang member who asked them, “What are you doing in this neighborhood?” before firing on him. The victim was shot in the wrist; he was taken to Stroger Hospital.
Additional incidents in the community of Cicero have raised even greater alarms, with residents alleging that Cicero police are allowing the gangs to roam the streets and lay down vigilante justice. Cicero Police Superintendent Jerry Chlada Jr. disputed the allegations.
“That’s ludicrous. Cicero Police Department would never team up with gangs or buy them pizza,” Chlada Jr. said Tuesday. “We were trying to get all of our citizens inside of the house last night, all night long and again, this is why we are imposing this curfew.
Shapearl Wells, an African American resident of Cicero attended the news conference and confronted the superintendent. Wells alleges that her cousin, who was driving out from Chicago to visit her, was at a red light on Cermak Road and Central Avenue when multiple men approached her.
“They told her, ‘You not from around here you n – – – – – bitch,’” Wells said.
When Wells, who was in disbelief, went out to investigate the incident the men returned and instructed her to return to her home.
Wells got her grievance with the official, calling the denial of the allegations a lie and declaring that more needed to be done.
“I called you guys and told you what was going on. You all knew this was happening and you know it,” Wells told Chlada Jr. “You have to stop this now.”
Within city limits Lopez has vowed to call on State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to prosecute every apprehended individual to the fullest extent of the law, including potential hate crime charges.
”Gangs thinking they are protecting their communities by intentionally using skin color to harass or, in this case, shoot their fellow neighbor is horrific. This mentality to commit hate crimes in the midst of calls for social and racial justice is just sickening,” Lopez said.
”We need to send a strong message that this will absolutely not be tolerated. Many are currently raising their voices to ensure people have a human right to live, work and enjoy freely, free of brutality by police as well as gangs.”