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The Ringing Bells of Liberty

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On the same day the marines suspended boxing at boot camp because a recruit died of a head injury, Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. took the council floor to promote his boxing fund-raiser featuring politicians pummeling each other.

"The Roar by the Shore," held June 11 at the South Shore Cultural Center, raised money for the Chicago Park District's boxing programs by staging fights between elected officials, including several aldermen, such as Burnett, Brian Doherty, and Ray Frias.

Burnett, a former Golden Gloves competitor, introduced a resolution praising the event at last week's council meeting. "I just want to know, aldermen, are you ready to rumm-bulll?" he yelled, while Alderman Billy Ocasio got up and rubbed Burnett's shoulders like a boxing coach.

It was a bit startling because Burnett is a freshman alderman who's normally soft-spoken at council meetings, when he speaks at all. Often, as happened this time, Alderman Edward Burke seems to act as a kind of prompter by announcing that Burnett has something to say. Then Burnett will speak.

But Alderman Ray Frias did something much stranger: He made an amusing speech. Frias, too, has been a quiet council freshman. More important, he recently became the fourth alderman indicted in the federal Silver Shovel corruption probe, charged with extortion and lying to the FBI. It's customary for indicted aldermen--even aldermen who are simply expecting an indictment--to shrink from the spotlight like vampires from sunshine.

Yet Frias was in a great mood. Like Burnett, he wore a red boxing glove on one hand. "I know when Walter invited me to this exhibition, I thought, 'What a wonderful opportunity to lead by example, to stand up and not only speak on behalf of our community, but we don't often get this chance to bleed for our community!' But Walter, I'm gonna give you that opportunity!" he crowed.

"Me 'n' you!" hooted Burnett.

"And I hope you're ready for this," Frias continued, "because I know you've been training hard, and it shows. See this is a right hand, right?" He waved the red glove. "I want ya to look at it. You don't see the left-hand glove, but you'll know it's there."

"Well you certainly got alotta publicity on this thing, there's no question about that," said Alderman Terry Gabinski, presiding for the absent Mayor Daley. "Yes, Alderman Doherty."

"I support this resolution," said Doherty, another former Golden Glover, "and in regards to the Sun-Times article [critical of the event] and some of the comments from my colleagues in regards to this type of endeavor, boxing, I just want it to be known that I've heard of a lot more people hurt on golf courses--"

Here Doherty gave a long pause and glanced pointedly at Alderman Burton Natarus, who had earlier told the Tribune that he considers boxing dangerous and who had recently sent a passerby to the emergency room with an errant shot from the Waveland golf course.

"--than I have ever seen in the boxing ring," Doherty finished.

"Mr. President!" called Alderman Bernard Hansen. "I think we should make a resolution asking the Park District to put up nets along Sheridan Road to either catch the balls or the golfers."

"I'd like the Park District to use the new emergency warning system to let us know 24 hours in advance when Alderman Natarus will be using one of the golf courses in the city of Chicago," added Alderman Mary Ann Smith.

--Cate Plys

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