US: Some violence-weary Chicago residents open to federal forces

Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the US. Some residents hope increased law enforcement will help.

    Chicago police crime scene tape marks the crime scene of a shooting of two men at the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, in late July 2020 [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
    Chicago police crime scene tape marks the crime scene of a shooting of two men at the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, in late July 2020 [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

    Many Chicagoans vehemently oppose President Donald Trump's pledge to sendfederalim????officers to the third-largest United States city, after seeing camouflaged agents deployed in Portland club and tear-gas anti-racism protesters.

    But inSouthand WestSideneighbourhoods hit hardest by a recent spike in gangviolence,someChicago residents welcomed the move and saidfederalagents might be able to help solve crimes.

    "I appreciate it, and I like it," said Cedrick Easterling, a former gang member, who was shovelling rubbish scattered in theSouthSideneighbourhood of Englewood as part of his work clearing vacant lots.

    "If you sit at that park, you will hear shots all over Englewood," Easterling, who was once shot himself, told Reuters, pointingsouthtowards Ogden Park. Like most in Chicago, Easterling is not a fan of Trump, who won just 51 of the city's 2,069 precincts in the 2016 presideim????ntial election.

    Easterling, 54, has lived in Englewood since he was seven. He said crime is particularly bad this year, and Trump should consider bringing in the National Guard and using drones to record evidence of crimes as they occur.

    Others were more cautious, saying they feared an increasedfederalpresence would erode civil liberties in a city that has had long-standing problems with police brutality in poor, predominantly Black neighbourhoods.

    Trump said last week that hundreds of officers from the FBI and otherfederalagencies would help fight crime in Chicago. The city is suffering an increase in violent crime, including a drive-by shooting by suspected gang members at a funeral last week that wounded 15 people.

    Trump has sought to project a law-and-order stance as he seeks re-election on November 3, targeting cities controlled by Democrats who he says are soft on criminals. Critics said the administration is seeking to divert attention from its widely criticized response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Economic divide

    Eight of 10 people Reuters interviewed in wealthier and safer areas onChicago'sNorthSideopposed any form of intervention from Trump, sayingfederalofficers could fan tensions in the city and would not address underlying issues such as unemployment and lack of economic opportunities.

    "I don't see how the feds are going to help with anything," said Michael Flaherty, a 53-year-old architect who lives inChicago'sGold Coast neighbourhood.

    "They're violent.Violencedoesn't fixviolence."

    The view was often more nuanced on theSouthand WestSides, where a much higher proportion of residents have experienced violent crime.

    Junior Jaber, 28, recalled the day four years ago when his friend Paul Hamilton, then 47, was killed by a stray bullet while walking his dog in Ogden Park.

    Lori Lightfoot
    Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot initially demanded Trump not send troops, then agreed [Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters]

    "I was mad. He had nothing to do with anything," said Jaber, who runs Englewood Food Mart, where Hamilton worked as a butcher. "We got to dosomething. It's almost like a warzone out here."

    Jaber said he was all for it when he learned of Trump's plan to send infederalagents.

    "They should clean it all up. Just do their job," said the 28-year-old father of two as he sold sodas, lottery tickets and pints of liquor.

    US Attorney General William Barr has said the reinforcements to Chicago do not involve the type of forces that were deployed to Portland and have been accused of civil rights violations and using excessive force.

    Protesters said uniformed personnel without name tags or agency badges snatched young people off the streets into unmarked vans before eventually releasing them.

    Protests have continued around the United States since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody. The US Justice Department said on Thursday that it would investigate the use of force in Portland and whetherfederalagents had proper identification.

    Black Lives Matter activists, who have led protests against police brutality in Chicago, are suingfederalofficials to try to ensure agents do not violate civil rights. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has told residents all newfederalresources would be "investigatory in nature" and promised to pursue all available legal options iffederalim????officers go beyond that.

    Recent increase

    WhileChicago'sim????murder rate had been falling in recent years, there were 116 murders across the 28 days through July 19, an increase of nearly 200 percent compared with the same period in 2019, police department data shows.

    Someresidents of East Garfield Park, a poor neighbourhood onChicago'sWestSide, supportfederalintervention after gang shootings hit unintended targets, said Damien Morris, director ofviolenceprevention initiatives for local nonprofit Breakthrough.

    "When you have women and kids getting shot - innocent bystanders - you have residents that feel likesomething needs to happen," Morris said.

    Federal officers use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Port
    Federal officers are accused of excessive force in Portland, worrying some Chicago residents [Noah Berger/AP Photo]

    im????Trump sent a smaller number of special agents and law enforcement researchers to Chicago in 2017 after a rise in violent crime.

    Phil Bridgeman, 49, said he opposes allfederallaw enforcement in Chicago. Even if thefederalagents could help solve high-profile cases, he said, they will not solve the root causes of violent crime.

    im????"It's not going to help, it's going to agitate," said Bridgeman as he sold "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts in the middle of a busy boulevard.

    Vaughn Bryant, executive director of anti-violencegroup Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, was concerned by "a greater threat to people's freedom", with the arrival of more agents.

    In Englewood, a man who goes by the name Joe Pug sat in a lawn chair with several other people on asidewalk opposite a small police station. The 49-year-old, who has lived in the neighbourhood for most of his life, supportsfederalagents investigating shootings.

    He said theSouthand WestSideim????s also need enormous investments in education and job creation, especially for young Black men.

    im????"There is nothing here; nothing for them," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies