City View: Policing during a pandemic

Why are blacks residing on the south and west side of Chicago facing more arrests and fines for failing to social distance more than others throughout the city?

By now, we have seen images of large crowds of young people of color forcibly encouraged to social distance near 68th and Halsted. Some even being arrested for violations of other lawful orders.  Are the Chicago police using Stay At Home orders to police people of color differently? The images of young people online spiked this tweet from noted Chicagoan, Chance the Rapper:

Yo, I have seen HUNDREDS of people at Millennium Park and pics of even more at the parks on the north side. Outside, no masks, no social distancing, enjoying themselves. Please stop sending large groups of militarized police into our neighborhoods exclusively.”

Missing data and incorrect violations

It is becoming hard to pinpoint the real racial divide in the policing of social distancing because detailed reports and demographic information are not provided on all citations.  With this limited data, it is practically impossible to report data on race, arrest, and the pandemic.

In some instances, police officers were seen asking people to show ID before allowing them to enter individual blocks on the Westside of Chicago, clearly a violation of their constitutional rights.  Often the police justify this heavy-handed behavior by saying they are reducing the number of drug sales, however, more times than not, there are rarely any drug charges filed, and the offense becomes criminal loitering.

Northsiders are treated differently.

Many feel the Northside of Chicago is treated much differently.  At the beginning of March, Gov.  Pritzker issued a stay at home order that restricted gatherings of more than ten people.  Images began to emerge from the Northside of the park and beachgoers, ignoring social distancing guidelines forcing Mayor Lightfoot to close the lakefront, public playgrounds, The 606 trail, and other public spaces.

The day after the incident took place on 68th and Halsted, a large anti-order protest group gathered in downtown Chicago at Columbus and Balbo.  The majority-white group, Thrive Time, said they were seeking to free fellow Americans from what it considers oppression.  The group rallied, displaying signs stating their rights were being overlooked. There were no signs of social distancing being practiced, but they were allowed to complete their rally.

Mayor Lightfoot responded on Twitter by saying: “…while we respect 1st amendment rights, today’s large unpermitted gathering at Millennium Park, posed an unacceptable health risk and was dispersed. No matter where in the city you live, no one is exempt from @GovPritzker’s stay-at-home order”.

No arrests, fines, or citations were issued to the crowd ignoring the governor’s stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines.  All of the citizens of Chicago should follow the governor’s rules, but it appears the laws are more heavily enforced on people and communities of color.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot denied there had been more enforcement in Black communities.  “The reality is the Chicago Police Department is active and engaged all over the city and doing it with an eye toward equity, and I would have it no other way as mayor of this city,” Lightfoot said. “I can tell you, based upon the statistics we’ve been keeping for weeks, those dispersal orders are happening all over the city — and yes, in white areas, in Latinx areas, in all areas of the city.”


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