Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On The West Side

This evening I walked about two miles along Chicago Avenue on the west side of Chicago with CeaseFire, an anti-violence group that has become known because it is featured in the movie The Interrupters. We chanted, “Put down the bullets, pick up a book” and other messages that make a lot of sense in the neighborhoods we were marching in, but which would seem odd in the suburb where I live. It isn't unusual for people to get shot on the west side for no discernible reason.

It seemed safe enough for all of us to be marching along the sidewalk, but it probably always seems safe until the shooting starts. I was surprised that there were no police to be seen. At other demonstrations I have been at in Chicago, there is always some police presence to help the marchers across the street, direct traffic, keep the peace, or just keep an eye on people. But this time, I didn't even see a squad car drive by.

When the march was over, I had to walk back to the beginning of the march route, where I had left my car. I thought about hailing a taxi, but I realized that cabs were another thing I didn't see the entire time I was on the west side.

The folks I marched with were friendly. Protesters usually are. I was the only white person in the march. I'm sure people noticed, although no one said anything.

It is hard to tell what impact the march had. A couple of TV crews were there. I didn't get home in time to see if we made it onto the news. Some of the folks we passed on the march were curious, but mostly they seemed to know why we were there. Some of them chanted along with us as we passed. A few motorists honked their horns as they drove by, to show their support.

The neighborhood we marched through is a short drive or El ride from the Loop. It is a prime location, although the neighborhood doesn't look it. It is hard to believe that people who live there have to worry about being shot every day. One teenager on the march told me she usually stays inside to be safe.

The weather was beautiful. The marchers had a strong, hopeful spirit about them, as is usually the case when people get together to try to make things better. I enjoyed being there, but it was also so, so, sad.

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