Chicago park shooting: outrage, again (+video)
Chicago park shooting renews focus on city's reputation as a murder capitol – and that of its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who faces voters in 2015. Areas hard hit by gang violence feel abandoned.
Chicago’s reputation as a “murder capital” was once again affirmed late Thursday when gunmen opened fire on a crowded city basketball court, hitting 13 people, including a three-year-old boy in the face. The shootings were among 23 total taking place across Chicago in a 12-hour period. Two people are dead.Skip to next paragraph
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Sadly, outrage over the incident now follows a familiar pattern: The mayor releases a statement expressing outrage, the police superintendent holds a press conference expressing outrage, and people in Chicago’s most marginalized neighborhoods express outrage that they don’t understand why violence in their city continues to make their streets unsafe.
“Violence is just the result of the city’s inaction for about 50 years. They’ve abandoned these neighborhoods,” says Pat Devine-Reed, a 40-year activist in Englewood, a neighborhood on the city’s South Side that has long suffered population loss, blight, and crime.
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“Many young people live day to day and if they die, they figure its part of life. No one else cares about their lives," she adds.
The continuation of violence in Chicago keeps the city making international headlines, a factor that Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) is trying very hard to fight. He is running for reelection in 2015 and faces constituencies in the city’s South and West Sides who are already distraught over his decision to shutter 50 public schools, the majority of which are in their neighborhoods. Indeed, polling shows Mayor Emanuel’s popularity is falling among black voters: 40 percent approve of his performance and 48 percent disapprove; last year, that disparity was 44-33, according to a Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV poll released in early May.
To Ms. Devine-Reed, the discontent with Emanuel is simple: “I don’t think he has an inkling of what are the depths of the issues are. It’s not that he doesn’t care, I really don’t think he knows. He goes on tours of the neighborhoods and all he sees are surface stuff.”
In recent weeks, Emanuel has been very public about gaining traction to win back black voters: He announced a Whole Foods Market opening in Englewood in 2016, he publicly apologized for a police torture scandal that was carried out under previous regimes, and he wants to rename Stony Island Avenue – one of the South Side’s most historic thoroughfares – after a beloved civic leader and pastor.
The violence, however, is not abating, and many people in these neighborhoods, such as Englewood, Roseland, Auburn Gresham, and Back of the Yards, where gang violence is most prevalent, say they are weary of living in areas where violence appears unstoppable – and feeling they have little control over their environment.
Many say they're also feeling the lack of political will to generate business and housing opportunities or to sustain investment in public infrastructure.
“People feel disempowered about institutions such as banks, the police, schools – it’s a piling on of institutional disinvestment to the extent people feel distrust, not just of their neighbors, but they feel an institutional lack of caring that then feeds on other issues in the neighborhood,” says Robert Sampson, a Harvard University social scientist who has studied Chicago’s South Side for his book, “Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect.”
Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy have consistently pressed the need for state and federal lawmakers to pass stronger bans on gun purchasing and ownership. “Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence. Military-type weapons belong on the battlefield and not on the street corner or in Back of the Yards,” Superintendant McCarthy told reporters Friday.