Racial tensions have run high in some parts of the South Side of Chicago for at least a century — and they’re bubbling up again now.
Residents of Armour Square, Bridgeport and Canaryville say they witnessed some of their neighbors attempting to self-police their communities on Wednesday night, including trucks driving around the block multiple times as if making the rounds; people of color and those holding protest signs being harassed; and men wielding bats in one hand and beers in the other.
Cally Vevers, a fourth-generation resident of Canaryville, says she first saw a call to arms on social media, and she then watched — dismayed and angry — from her front porch.
Vevers says if you’re worried about looting, go protect your own home or business.
“But don’t go out chasing down teenagers who were using their First Amendment right to protest peacefully, and have to walk through our neighborhood to get back home to theirs,” Vevers said. “This neighborhood has such a bad reputation for that, and it’s not everyone here. There are so many of us that are sick of it.”
When asked about it at a press briefing Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she supports neighbors being vigilant but that she won’t tolerate people taking up arms.
“It is absolutely not appropriate for people to take up arms, bats, pipes, whatever, in patrolling neighborhoods. We’ve seen that end with tragic results across the country but we’re not about to allow that practice to happen here in Chicago,” Lightfoot said.
A group of residents sent a letter Thursday to Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th Ward). “We are asking you to keep us safe from gangs of men, marching our streets with weapons. Let me ask you — who are you keeping Bridgeport safe for? We hope it is for all of us, and I thereby hope that it is for our Black neighbors as well,” it reads.
Elswhere on the South Side — in Auburn Greshem — protestors met at St. Sabina Church for what was touted as a different type of demonstration: one that was peaceful, and meant to steer the conversation away from looting and riots, and back to the incidents of police brutality against black men that instigated all that’s transpired.
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky