All ingredients here for riots like in London
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org August 11, 2011 12:32AM
Updated: October 3, 2011 12:35PM
London is burning and Chicago had better take notice.
“Brazen crowds” is how the Associated Press described the ethnically diverse rioters that streamed out of the poor section of London and stormed the city’s upscale neighborhoods.
Authorities believe the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old father of four by police touched off the violence.
And what started as a peaceful protest ended with mobs of young people destroying businesses and helping themselves to electronics, flat-screens, smartphones, clothing, and anything else they could carry.
Aided by their addiction to social media, young rioters were able to fan out like a viral video.
Unfortunately, the same thing could happen here, especially if we continue to ignore the large numbers of young people who are growing up without much hope.
These young people live in urban war zones where violence is practically a way of life. Even kids who aren’t necessarily bad kids are joining in.
For instance, two weeks ago I went over to 29th and Michigan to attend a birthday party for a childhood friend.
Because my friend failed to tell me that the party was in a South Commons apartment, I ended up parking on Michigan, but I couldn’t access South Commons from there. So I am standing on the street, using my cell phone to let my friend know someone needed to come and get me, when I noticed a large group of kids coming toward me.
They seemed to have popped out of nowhere. None of the children looked older than 12. Three kids passed me first, and I spoke. They spoke back, but I noticed that five others hung back until I was between the two groups. Then, one of the kids from the first group turned back and rushed toward me with something in his hand. I screamed at the top of my lungs and both groups scattered, laughing wildly.
It wasn’t until I was safely in the apartment that I realized I had been sprayed in the forehead with pepper spray.
Despite their innocent looks, these kids probably wouldn’t have a problem joining up with a mob of looters.
Another reason the London riots are a warning is the historically strained relationship that exists in Chicago between the police and the black community.
Revelations that former Mayor Richard M. Daley is listed as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging a cover-up of police torture is only going to make things worst.
Frankly, the disrespect black youth in low-income areas show police, along with the rise in incidents in which whites are bullied or attacked by black youth, is enough to put youth and police on a course that could lead to riots.
This is not just happening in Chicago.
Milwaukee police were caught off-guard last week when mobs of black youth ran amuck at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair.
Crowds of young black men not only fought with each other, but they attacked whites.
Witnesses described the violence as “unprecedented.”
Although Tom Struebing, the chief of the State Fair Police, said several times that the violence was not racially motivated, Milwaukee residents are no more convinced he’s telling the truth anymore than Chicagoans were convinced that North Avenue Beach was shut down earlier this summer because of the extreme heat.
Finally, just like a lot of the young people who rioted in London, a lot of young black people in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods have been written out of America’s future.
Many of these youth have either dropped out of high school or have criminal backgrounds.
Meanwhile, every day they are bombarded with images of people living the high-on-the-hog lifestyles portrayed on reality TV.
That is why so many unchurched and misguided teens are risking being locked up or even being shot by police to get their hands on a smartphone or an iPod or a set of wheels.
What exploded in London was a lethal combination of distrust, poverty, disrespect and hopelessness.
Those same ingredients are in abundance right here.