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Shoot to Kill

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Mayor Daley relished the year 1967. Around the country, blacks trapped and packed in steaming, stinking ghettos lashed out--in Newark, in Detroit, in more than 140 cities that summer. Not in Chicago, though. In Chicago, we had programs--"positive, constructive programs," Daley said. In his successful bid to bring the Democratic National Convention to Chicago, he boasted of his city's racial harmony.

The day following King's assassination in 1968--the first day of the rioting--was Daley's 13th anniversary as mayor, but he knew better than to spend his day celebrating. He called a special memorial service for the City Council chambers, only the third in the city's history, and he praised King to the skies; he ordered the flag flown at halfmast. Jesse Jackson, wearing dark glasses and a turtleneck said to be smeared with King's blood, addressed the City Council: "A fitting memorial to King would not be to sit here looking sad and pious but to behave differently."

The riots devastated Daley. "I never believed it could happen here," he said. Perhaps he had truly believed the obsequious praise heaped on him by black Machine aldermen; perhaps he thought the black community truly loved him.

He surveyed the smoldering west side from a helicopter. He wondered aloud not why the rioters had taken to burning and looting their own community, nor why they had jeopardized their neighbors and fellow Chicagoans. He asked, "Why did they do this to me?" Was this any way for blacks to express their gratitude?

He spoke over and over again, in the ensuing weeks, of his programs. Forget the documented cases of police brutality against blacks; forget that he opposed open housing for blacks; forget that the black community's terribly overcrowded schools were on double shifts while white schools a short ride away had room for more students. He had programs.

Ten days after the first night of rioting, after the violence had subsided, Daley's incredulity gave way to fury. The explosion came at a press conference on Monday, April 15. "I have conferred with the superintendent of police this morning and I gave him the following instructions: I said to him very emphatically and very definitely that an order be issued by him immediately and under his signature to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand because they're potential murderers, and to issue a police order to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city. . . .

"I was most disappointed to know that every policeman out on his beat was supposed to use his own discretion. . . . In my opinion, policemen should have instructions to shoot arsonists and looters--arsonists to kill, and looters to maim and detain.

"I assumed the instructions were given, but . . . I found out this morning that this wasn't so."

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