Saturday, December 31, 2016

How will Michigan Avenue crowd respond to so visual homicide protest?

I remember a time some three decades ago when I covered a protest march in the District of Columbia – one that passed through the upscale Georgetown neighborhood.
PFLEGER: Leading 100s on 'invasion' of Mich. Ave.

To be honest, I don’t even remember what the “cause” was. But what stuck in my mind was the reaction of people who thought they were out for a good time Saturday night, only to find the sight of all these great unwashed peoples ruining their time.

I REMEMBER BECAUSE I tried to interview several people who were spectators; none of whom wanted to talk, all of whom seemed confused about the point and probably felt like their night out was spoiled.

This comes to my mind because I won’t be surprised if there’s a similar reaction to a protest march being planned for Saturday night – also known as New Year’s Eve.

For Rev. Michael Pfleger of the St. Sabina Catholic parish in the Auburn/Gresham neighborhood plans to come downtown Saturday. Although he’s not headed here in anticipation of consuming too much alcohol and doing a countdown early Sunday to the beginning of 2017.

If anything, his count will be up – and one that I’m sure he feels is going up too high. Although I suspect many of us are going to try to downplay its significance.

HIS ‘CAUSE’ RELATES to the homicide rate for Chicago during 2016. We won’t know until early next week what the final tally will be, but it would seem we’re going to have a higher rate than any year since 1997. We’re likely to have something like 760 to 770 people killed during this year due to urban violence.

Now I know in the past that I have mocked the people who are getting worked up over the homicide rate increase, primarily because I remember back some three decades ago (the late 1980s, to be exact) when the homicide rate for Chicago would fall just short of 1,000 people per year.

Although I have to concede that getting into the 700s (and having some naysayers way too eager to point out how close to 800 we are) is a problem we ought to be concerned about.

One death attributable to violence by another human being is a tragedy for the family impacted. Having so many hundreds of families having to endure these circumstances is truly embarrassing for our city.

PFLEGER PLANS TO try to illustrate the number with his protest march, which is to have people bearing two-foot-high crosses with the names of each victim – marching in a parade along Michigan Avenue. It’s going to be a visual sight – one that I’m sure will make many of the New Year’s partygoers feel a bit squeamish.

And probably will cause some to try to dismiss Pfleger in the way they usually do – just another loudmouthed troublemaker, and when is Cardinal Blasé Cupich going to get around to giving him the boot!?!

As though Pfleger is the problem because he points out what we ought to regard as the problem – but which too many of us ignore because there are large swaths of the city where urban violence isn’t a problem.

It becomes way too easy for people to think of the violence as something that doesn’t impact them, and most likely is something that only affects “those people” who just can’t learn to live like civilized human beings.

YET BEFORE ONE gets the impression that this is a diatribe, consider that many of the people who are eager to highlight the city’s homicide rate have their own political agenda – in many cases to make “those people” look bad in their own minds. Which makes it easier for them mentally to commit all kinds of impersonal actions against them.

Particularly when it comes to political activity – the oncoming era of the Trump presidency is going to be particularly harsh and the people most eager to see it happen are those of a certain racial perspective.

There are so many statistics and mathematical formulas that can make many other places appear to be more violent than Chicago – even though some will want to cite the lower tallies for New York and Los Angeles this year as some sort of be-all and end-all on the issue.

Which means the sight of all those crosses Saturday night are going to be something of a reality check – even though many of those who see them will probably try to convince themselves that it really didn’t happen. They just had too much to drink!


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