Chicago Shooting Puts Spotlight on City's Historic Inequality - Rolling Stone
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In Chicago, a Shooting Forces Systemic Inequality to the Surface

Shooting of 20-year-old Black man in Englewood neighborhood spotlights deep inequities as the city grapples with unrest

TOPSHOT - A woman shouts into a megaphone during a rally against Chicago Police violence in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, on August 11, 2020. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)TOPSHOT - A woman shouts into a megaphone during a rally against Chicago Police violence in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, on August 11, 2020. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman shouts into a megaphone during a rally against Chicago Police violence in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, on August 11, 2020.


According to police, last Sunday at around 2:30 p.m. Chicago police officers responded to a “call of a person with a gun” in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood, and saw someone who matched the description in an alley. Police said the subject then ran and shot at officers while they pursued him on foot. Officers shot back and struck the subject, who was taken into custody and transported to a hospital. Three officers involved were also treated at a hospital. A gun allegedly used by the subject was recovered at the scene. On Monday night, police charged 20-year-old Latrell Allen with two counts of attempted murder and unlawful possession of a weapon. Bond has been set at $1 million.

Community activists disputed the police news release, and questioned the gun allegedly found at the scene and whether the subject shot first, citing that the details were uncorroborated. “Chicago police allege that they stopped someone who they suspected of possessing a gun. Next, the young person ran away, rightly fearing for his safety in this dangerous interaction with racist armed police,” Black Lives Matter Chicago wrote in a statement on Monday. “The cops then pursued him on foot, going directly against DOJ recommendation to eliminate foot chases. The chase culminated in CPD shooting that young person, creating violence out of a situation where no one was in danger.”

The shooting is being investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). In a statement requesting assistance from residents for information surrounding the shooting, COPA said its preliminary investigative findings determined police involved “did not have body worn cameras.” Meanwhile, the officers involved have been put on administrative duty per protocol for 30 days.

After the shooting, video footage shared online showed neighbors gathering in the area as more police moved in. Tensions built on Sunday afternoon when, police say, social media posts circulated that claimed the person who was shot was a younger boy. “Just misinformation all around,” Chicago Police Deputy Chief Yolanda Talley said in a press briefing, via CBS Chicago. Talley added that things became “very hostile” between police and the community that gathered.

“Englewood is a prime example of the extreme organized abandonment that has occurred in the black community in Chicago over the last 40 years. And so what we saw was a community that has been so heavily abandoned by the state and in terms of resources, but has been so heavily policed in response to that abandonment,” Aislinn Pulley, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Chicago, tells Rolling Stone. “So when the police engaged in an illegal foot pursuit, which they are no longer allowed to do because it’s so dangerous and because so many people have been killed and harmed due to these foot pursuits, the neighborhood erupted in righteous anger in response.”

The same night of the shooting, hundreds of people converged on the city’s Magnificent Mile, a stretch known for its high-end shopping, where storefront windows were shattered and merchandise taken. More than 400 police, who said they were tipped off to potential looting via social media, responded to the area. As the night wore on and into the early morning hours of Monday, the unrest spread to surrounding neighborhoods downtown. By daybreak, shards of glass and debris peppered sidewalks and parking lots throughout downtown. More than 100 people were arrested, 13 police officers were injured and two people were shot, Police Superintendent David Brown said.

In a press conference on Monday morning with city officials, Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the overnight unrest, calling it “abject criminal behavior, pure and simple.” “This was not an organized protest,” Police Superintendent David Brown said. “Rather, this was an incident of pure criminality.” Brown said looters were “emboldened” after being previously arrested but not charged during the unrest following the death of George Floyd in May. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx responded in a separate news conference on Monday, saying “dishonest blame games” did not serve the situation well. “We cannot conflate peaceful protestors with what we saw last night,” Foxx said.

On the surface, Sunday’s mayhem rolled out like a heartbreakingly familiar cause-and-effect situation: a police shooting of a black man from an underserved community in one of the country’s most segregated cities prompted a response fueled by gaping inequalities. Some saw the looting as an outrage; others called it justifiable reparations; in between, there were viewpoints as varied as the city’s neighborhoods. Arrests were made, and the looting became a focus in national news.

Pulley, the Black Lives Matter Chicago cofounder, tells Rolling Stone that the reaction is similar to how people focus on violence within a community, rather than concentrating on the conditions that produce outbursts. “We know what causes intra-communal violence — it’s the economic disparity that exists within our neighborhoods, it’s the fact that black unemployment in some of our neighborhoods is as high as 80 percent,” she says. “We know this scientifically: increases in gaps between the rich and the poor increase intra-communal violence. And Chicago’s one of the most segregated cities in the country, and the economic disparity is so vividly apparent.”

While the recent unrest was similar to the reaction after shootings in other cities nationwide, the urgency for solutions is palpable in Chicago, long fed by systemic racism, generational poverty, and disinvestment in underserved communities.

“The level of segregation is high in this city. Certainly, the poor neighborhoods in some of the larger cities have similar issues, but the level of residential segregation is different here,” says Reuben Jonathan Miller, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. He follows the lives of current and formerly incarcerated people, and he says that many return to the same underserved communities where recidivism is high as is unemployment. “We know that a negative interaction with a police officer shows up in your life in detrimental ways, that where there’s overwhelming amounts of policing, there’s overwhelming amounts of health and mental health problems. Where there’s overwhelming amounts of policing, we know that folks who go to prison struggle to find work when they come home. In other words, we know mass incarceration is itself a driver of social inequality.”

Add in a pandemic, the loss of federally-assisted unemployment at a time when those struggling need it the most, and a movement calling to defund police and instead invest in communities as distrust continues to fester, and the events resonate well beyond what seemed to initially set things off and what apparently followed the last few days.

“The relationships are strained right now with living through a crisis,” says Miller, who grew up in a black community on the South Side. “And crises strain relationships anyway. With that said, it’s an economic crisis, it’s a health pandemic, it’s a public health crisis and it’s a crisis of confidence in the government’s inability not just to protect or provide for, but to treat people with basic human dignity. And so this COVID helped produce the powder keg that we have right now.”

While the outcomes of the investigation from the shooting and the fates of those arrested during the unrest are still developing, Chicagoans prepared for new restrictions and owners of damaged businesses and stores — many of which had just reopened following unrest from previous months — began the process of rebuilding anew. Mayor Lightfoot announced a temporary restriction to the downtown area from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., which began on Monday. On Thursday, officials announced 1,000 police officers will patrol downtown this weekend in an effort to prevent more violence and on Friday, Lightfoot also introduced strategies the city is implementing to prevent future looting, which includes using technology and data analytics and implementing a task force to monitor social media, ABC Chicago reports. Several rallies have taken place around the city through the week and they are expected to continue. On Friday evening , Black Lives Matter Chicago will hold a rally with the family of Allen, Pulley says.

“What we’re seeing is a political crisis erupting and continuing to erupt where the people are maintaining the demands for change and maintaining accountability for the brutality that has been waged by policing and the organized divestment that happens at the same time in our communities that has created such dire conditions – poverty, unemployment, etc.,” Pulley says, noting that there have been more than 2,500 people arrested in connection with protests since May.

Until the conditions are addressed — something she says the city has failed to do — people will continue to fight for progress. “The conditions that have produced the unrest have not changed, and so there’s no expectation that the unrest is going to die down,” she says. “Until there’s change, there’s no expectation that the organizing, the marching, the rallying and the unrest will die down.”


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