Mayor Richard M. Daley told hundreds gathered for an antiviolence march in Auburn-Gresham Friday night that he and the police were doing their jobs—it was up to them to end the violence in their communities.
"I can do as many marches as you want," he said, as impassioned and coherent as I've heard him in years. "We can walk up and down the street. We can do everything. But you have to say, one day, 'Enough is enough!' And not just saying the words—we need action on the street!"
But some are saying the same thing back to Daley.
"This is great—look at all these police around here," one marcher said to me a few minutes later. The procession, led by Daley, Reverend Michael Pfleger, schools chief Ron Huberman, and other city officials, flanked by numerous squad cars and uniformed officers, was blocking traffic on 79th Street and then Halsted. She nodded toward the cops. "But what's going to happen when they all leave?"
Unfortunately the answer was more violence. Later that night at least two people were shot in Auburn-Gresham, and dozens of others were shot across the city over the warm weekend—at least 52 total. Chicago continues to be a national leader in violence.
Maybe the mayor needs to follow through on his offer to hold more marches, or at least to use his bully pulpit to get city leaders, citizens, and cops into troubled neighborhoods on a regular basis—and not just as a one-time political event.
But this would require several things that are currently lacking around here, starting with a well-staffed police force and city leadership interested in seriously discussing what can be done about violence and crime beyond PR campaigns.
"If a drug dealer says, 'I own your family,' they own your family," Daley said in his speech/sermon Friday. "If a drug dealer says, 'I own your block,' they own your block. What can you do as men and women and adults—are you willing to say, 'I can walk up my block with two or three other adults' and say, 'We belong here—you don't belong here'?"
He went on: "What we're asking you to do is reach down into your soul," Daley said. "It is about time we end the silence on violence."
The crowd, made up largely of members of Pfleger's church, Saint Sabina, applauded the mayor's comments; many nodded their heads and called out their agreement with his message.
But thousands of people, including those at the rally, are already doing what the mayor asked. It's not enough. I think of Michelle Lee-Sebastian, whom I recently met at a community meeting a few blocks from the march site. She and her neighbors have banded together to form the 81st and 82nd/Winchester Block Club to do what they can to combat crime, loitering, drug dealing, blight, and other problems on their block because they're invested in it. But she said sometimes their calls to the city, their alderman, and the police department don't prompt a timely response. And citizens aren't typically equipped to fight drug gangs on their own.
"We're trying," she told me. "But we need a little help."