Ron Jackson: What did Dan Ryan shutdown prove?

July 15, 2018

Awareness makes a difference. In one 24-hour period this week, from Wednesday to Thursday, 16 people were shot in Chicago. Six of those were fatal. The shootings took place in three different neighborhoods — Auburn Gresham, West Rogers Park, and West Pullman. One of the victims was an 82-year-old man walking in a neighborhood he has called home for more than 50 years. None of the shootings was reported to have been committed by motorists traveling on any highways that run through the city. No new highway shutdowns have been planned.

In the wake of these latest acts of violence, it is difficult to avoid pointing out the silliness of last week’s organized shutdown of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The organizers made it difficult. Their intent was to make me more aware of the rampant gun violence. In that regard, it was a successful event. As of July 13, there have been 1,489 shootings in the city totaling 237 fatalities. Chicago’s most likely neighborhoods in which to get shot and killed are Austin, Garfield Park, Englewood and North Lawndale. The three neighborhoods where the Wednesday-Thursday shootings took place do not rank in the city’s Top 9 deadliest communities. Good information if you are planning to exit a highway, conduct business or visit a friend.

Of course, we cannot measure the effect of the march in just a few days. And, fortunately for the organizer’s sake, Father Pfleger did not make any outlandish promises to affect change. He just wanted to make noise. However, in the days since last Saturday’s march, 49 people in Chicago have been shot — 12 of them fatally.

Although, post-march stats are not positive, given this type of effort has not been taken before, maybe it will make a difference. Looking back a little more than 50 years, Chicago’s gun murder rate is fairly consistent with the exception of spikes during the tenure of two mayors. During Mayor Richard J. Daley’s 21-year reign, the city averaged 520 murders by gun per year. In one term of Mayor Jane Byrne’s tenure, the city averaged 800 murders per year. As well as in one term of Mayor Harold Washington’s with 824 gun murders per year. Richard M. Daley served 22 years as mayor and saw an annual average of 666 gun murders. Current Mayor Rahm Emanuel is averaging 527 gun murders per year, but this year is not completed.

Maybe, just maybe, this new approach could turn out to be a difference-maker. Then again, with so much information available, more strategic efforts could be concentrated where the most violence is being committed. Better yet, the march organizers could have just paid a visit to the Near North Side community where gun murder almost is nonexistent. There has to be a reason why murder is not acceptable there. Find that reason and plan a march to make the rest of the city’s crime-laden areas aware. Dispense valuable information instead of discord.

Words by American inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller put last week’s protest in perspective. He advised, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

I am more aware of Chicago’s gun violence than I was one week ago. Maybe all those thousands of motorists who were inconvenienced last week are, too. If so, job well done, Father Pfleger.

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