On Chicago’s south side, some residents weary of violence are open to federal investigators

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Many Chicagoans vehemently oppose President Donald Trump’s promise to send federal officials to the third-largest city in the US, after seeing camouflaged agents deployed to a Portland club and protesters anti-racism with tear gas.

Chicago Police shell markers are seen where a 37-year-old man riding a bicycle was shot and pronounced dead at the hospital according to local media reports, on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, USA. July 26, 2020. REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton

But in the southern and western neighborhoods on the side most affected by a recent spike in gang violence, some Chicago residents welcomed the move, saying federal agents could help solve crimes.

“I appreciate it and I like it,” said Cedrick Easterling, a former gang member who was picking up litter scattered in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood as part of his job cleaning up vacant lots.

“If you sit in that park, you will hear gunshots all over Englewood,” said Easterling, who was once shot, pointing south toward 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 presidential election.

Easterling, 54, has lived in Englewood since he was seven years old. 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 and said they feared that a greater federal presence would erode civil liberties in a city that has had long-standing problems with police brutality in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

Trump said last week that hundreds of officers from the FBI and other federal agencies would help fight crime in Chicago. The city is experiencing a spike in violent crime, including a shooting led by suspected gang members at a funeral last week that injured 15 people.

Trump has tried to project a public order stance while seeking re-election on November 3, targeting Democrat-controlled cities that he says are soft on criminals. Critics say the administration is trying to divert attention from its widely criticized response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eight out of 10 people interviewed by Reuters in wealthier and safer areas on the north side of Chicago opposed any form of Trump intervention, saying federal officials could fuel tensions in the city and would not address underlying problems like unemployment.

“I don’t see how the feds will help with anything,” said Michael Flaherty, a 53-year-old architect who lives in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

“They are violent. Violence does not fix violence. ”

The view was often more nuanced on the south and west sides, where a much larger proportion of residents have experienced violent crime.

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

“He was crazy. It had nothing to do with anything,” said Jaber, who runs Englewood Food Mart, where Hamilton worked as a butcher. “We have to do something. It’s almost like a war zone out here.

Jaber said he was willing to do so when he learned of Trump’s plan to send federal agents.

“They should clean everything up. Just do your job, ”said the 28-year-old father of two, while selling soft drinks, lottery tickets and pints of liquor.

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

Protesters said uniformed personnel without name tags or agency insignia snatched youths from the streets in unmarked trucks before finally releasing them.

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

Black Lives Matter activists, who have led protests against police brutality in Chicago, are suing federal officials to try to ensure that officers do not violate civil rights. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has told residents that all of the new federal resources would be “investigative in nature” and promised to seek all available legal options if federal officials go beyond that.


While Chicago’s murder rate had declined in recent years, there were 116 murders in the 28 days through July 19, an increase of almost 200% compared to the same period in 2019, department data shows. of cop.

Some residents of East Garfield Park, a poor neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, support federal intervention after gang shootings hit unwanted targets, said Damien Morris, director of violence prevention initiatives for local nonprofit Breakthrough. .

“When you have women and children being shot, innocent people, you have residents who feel that something must happen,” Morris said.

Trump dispatched a smaller number of special agents and police investigators to Chicago in 2017 after an increase in violent crime.

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

“It’s not going to help, it’s going to shake up,” Bridgeman said as he sold “Black Lives Matter” shirts in the middle of a busy boulevard.

Vaughn Bryant, executive director of the anti-violence group Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, was concerned about “a greater threat to people’s freedom,” with the arrival of more officers.

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In Englewood, a man by the name of Joe Pug sat in a lawn chair with others on a sidewalk in front of a small police station. The 49-year-old man, who has lived in the neighborhood for most of his life, supports federal agents investigating shootings.

He said the south and west sides also need massive investments in education and job creation, especially for black youth.

“There is nothing here, nothing for them,” he said.

Reports by Brendan O’Brien and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Caroline Stauffer and Daniel Wallis edition

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