Chicago Community Leaders Respond to Racial Tension and Violence

Rod 2.0 reported that a video of a weekend fight among a crowd of youths in the Boystown section of Chicago has raised community concerns. The video shows a 25-year-old man being punched and kicked by nearly a dozen young people. He was stabbed multiple times. Some residents claim that presence of LGBT youth has led to an increase in crime. Others denounce these concerns and claim white residents are intolerant of young black people who visit the neighborhood from other parts of the city. There are also some who believe the increase of young people from other neighborhoods is related to youth programs at the Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center. Many LGBT youth of color come to the center because they don't feel comfortable or safe being themselves in their own neighborhoods. The center offers a safe space to interact with friends, meet with mentors, attend job-training courses and more. Modesto Valle, the center's executive director, told the Chicago Tribune that he's concerned about the crime but thinks it's unfair to group the young people who come to the center for help or friendship with those causing problems on the streets. "I don't want them gone," Darrell Snyder, a longtime resident of Boystown, told the Chicago Tribune. "I just want them to stop hanging out in large groups and to find something to do when they're not at the center.” At a press conference on July 6, Joshua McCool, a representative of LGBT advocacy group Gender JUST, responded to increased policing and profiling, racist attacks, and harassment: “We don’t downplay this violence, but we won’t allow you to use this as an excuse to profile us; we see policing and profiling as tools of violence – and you can’t fight violence with violence!” The press conference occurred outside a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) community meeting, where police met with hundreds of Boystown residents and business owners.  In a recent statement, Gender JUST said,

Gender JUST youth and allies also spoke at the meeting about how increasing policing on the streets creates more surveillance and racial profiling, and ignores the many reasons why youth come to the area and the root causes of violence.  Gender JUST board member, Renisha Campbell, testified that ‘simply displacing and locking up young people isn’t going to solve the problem.’  Meanwhile, the crowd booed, shouted racial slurs, and several times throughout the evening someone would shout ‘GET A JOB!’ every time a young person of color spoke.

The organization is advocating for systematic solutions, like increasing city funding for resources on the south and west sides of Chicago. “We won’t get to any real solutions if we’re not addressing the real problem,” said one longtime Boystown resident at the CAPS community forum. “I’m just ashamed of being a Chicagoan right now because of the way we’re treating these people. I’m ashamed of the response this neighborhood is having toward the youth.” Other speakers completely disagreed. “It’s not a race issue. It’s a behavioral problem,” one said to loud applause. "There tends to be large groups of minority youths on Halsted. Whether they are patronizing the businesses or not, it's an area where they feel safe. It's a balancing act that we're trying to make it safe for everyone," 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney told GLAAD has reached out to Equality Illinois and Gender JUST. We will continue to closely monitor media coverage of this incident.