Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Couraj Tells News-Star The "Real Reason" For the Anti-Crime Rally

Meanwhile, Couraj hauls out their Magic Eight Ball (which, oddly enough, always says the same old thing) and tell the News-Star that it's all about those darn condo owners practicing class discrimination and racial hatred -- just an excuse for a hundred of their neighbors protesting the killing of a black man on the streets of Uptown.

Uptown Justice group lauds Ald. Shiller, says anti-crime group opposes low-income

Organizers from the community organization COURAJ - Community of Uptown Residents for Affordability and Justice - claim that the residents staging the rally are "condo owners" and members of other community organizations that are against Ald. Helen Shiller because she supports low-income housing.

"The police, CAPS and the whole situation is part of the gentrification process," COURAJ volunteer Dave Williams said during a phone interview earlier in the week. "It's not totally a matter of market pressure. What we know is that the police and the condo owners would like to see low- and moderate-income people move out of the area."

Earlier last week, COURAJ announced that is introducing a new program in July called "COPWATCH" that will monitor 20th and 23rd District police officers' interactions with the neighborhood's minority residents. Williams said that COPWATCH volunteers will be touring the streets and documenting police interactions with their cameras.

"[Police] will stop any person of color or any person who looks low income and search that person, talk negative to that person, and threaten to take them to jail," Williams said. "We aim to slow it down as much as we can."


  1. for more insight into why the copwatch program was started, please read this report about police accountability in chicago. it highlights the importance of ordinary people working to hold a police department accountable for what it does, because it's clear that historically there is next to no accountability within the CPD.

  2. Seriously this is why I don't vote democrat. Un real. This group is the reason more people do not come over to the more moderate side of the left and help out on some of the issues.

    I love it how Ron needs "ordinary" people to monitor police. Isn't that why we hire elected officials? To put the right people in place?

    Way to go Ron! I hope the next time you call 911 you get a busy signal.

  3. As someone who has a keen eye for the happenings on the street I can tell you waaaay more often than not the police do NOT stop "people of color" that appear "low income".

    In fact, I'd put it at about 90% no stopping perhaps even higher. I'll also add that I see the people they don't stop do bad things (deal drugs, urinate in public, drink in public) so, yeah, a part of me wishes they'd stop more people.

    The cops aren't stupid. They know EXACTLY who the dealers and gang members are. Talk to a cop and you'll be amazed at what they know. So, when they stop these "people of color" it's for the right reason.

  4. Well, I appreciate your new approach on this blog guys (ron durham). Let's hope you don't chose to revert back to your incendiary tactics, baiting and name calling.

    I knew about the story of "Diane." Although I just skimmed this article quickly it doesn't seem to mention that she had been the victim of a gang rape when she was a younger woman and so the tactics the police used were particularly traumatizing to her. No free society can abide that. However, the question for us all is how to we balance civil rights with the need to have a police force? I'm no expert but I would guess that demonizing EVERYONE is not the answer. Balance, sensitivity and listening directed at constructive problem solving is the only way to go. Is that a fair characterization of your approach? Hmmm...

  5. I rent and I attended the Anti-Crime Rally. I guess I blew that theory away. Gosh, and I go to CAPS meetings too. Whoa. Renters who do not want crime in Uptown and are involved in CAPS? What a concept.

  6. Since I am sure BillyJoe will be coming back with this breaking news, I have decided to "scoop" him. NBC 5 reports that women were abused in a large police raid on May 30th in Logan Square. The link is too long to post but it should be all over the papers and, of course, NBC 5.

    If the allegations are true, of course I do not condone them. I decided to "scoop" you in order to ask you not to use this as an opportunity to slander Uptowners once again by proclaiming that they are somehow proponents of excessive force, brutality and on and on. Instead, why don't you offer a suggestion for how the police might better work in cooperation with citizens or how community organizations might play an intermediary role. What do you recommend? Ceasefire or something like it? What they did at The Woodlawn Organization? Posters here have been accused of too much complaining. What would you recommend?

  7. COURAJ talks about this "gentrification process" like it's a bad thing... :)

    Anyone with an inkling of understanding of urban economies and the ghetto-making processes of post-WWII America understands that issues of gentrification are wrought with moral ambiguity. Poor residents don't fair as badly in gentrified areas as COURAJ contends they do. Their moral certainty in this clearly grey issue gives away their ridiculous bias.

    COURAJ, Shiller, and the like need to understand that urban revitalization is necessary for the survival of the Chicago region.

  8. The fact of the matter is that this city is broken.

    The people who've been elected as stewards of this city have failed, collectively.

    We do have bad cops. Yes. A majority? Dunno.

    But, the people who should be over-seeing the CPD are crooked, too.

    The answer to the question of "who will police the police" is not the Coast Guard, it's the city.

    So, anyone who points a finger at the cops and says "bad!" needs also to point their fingers at the city, as well, and say "worse!"

    Until we fix the City Council (ie - "Legion of Doom"), we can't fix the police.

    In short, the aldermen and their lackeys are part of the problem, not the solution.

    COURAJ needs to be a shade more comprehensive in their mission.

  9. Ron, is COPWATCH just a program in Uptown or will volunteers be participating across the city? Presumably this is a systematic problem not limited to certain police districts. Are you banding together with other groups already working on this issue or will you be seeking to expand your volunteer base so that you can get more coverage? Inquiring minds...

  10. "Uptown Dad" (i must say i wish people would use their real names on this blog so that they can take personal responsibility for what they say and write), clearly relying on elected officials to monitor the police and discipline officers that break the law has not been effective. I really suggest that you read the article that i linked to in my first comment, also read some of the articles that John Conroy wrote for the Reader regarding police torture (they're on the Reader website). These pieces just give a short glimpse at the inability of our elected officials to hold the police accountable for extremely violent, unjustifiable acts.

    and your comment about calling 911, let me be clear, as part of the COPWATCH program, we are not saying that the police shouldn't exist or that they're all bad. What we are saying is that ordinary people have to take responsibility for what happens in the neighborhood, INCLUDING POLICE VIOLENCE AND MISCONDUCT. And there are current and former police officers in Chicago who know there is a real lack of accountability that requires serious systemic change in policing and politics in Chicago. See the Chicago-based Affrican-American Police League website at

    And for the record, people from COURAJ have worked and continue to work to prevent the street violence that happens in Uptown. But the approach is to work for community-based solutions that address the root causes of crime as opposed to only advocating for a larger, more aggressive police presence.

  11. "Yo," i agree that the city and city council are responsible for the problem with the police too. in fact, we all are when we know of the problems that exist and do nothing about it. Police misconduct does not help reduce crime, it deliegitimizes the police in the eyes of many people, rightfully so.

    "Saskia," COPWATCH programs exist in many cities across the U.S.

    actually there is another COPWATCH group that already exists in Chicago and it is likely that others will be happening soon in other parts of the city. Those of us in Uptown will be focusing our energies in Uptown because we feel that there is a big problem with some police behavior in the neighborhood. And although there are probably only a few cops who commit the majority of the abuse, history has proven that almost all "good" cops never report such behavior (partially or wholly out of fear of retribution), it's part of the culture of police departments.

  12. Hot Damn! Now we are getting somewhere! I agree with you on this point... What we are saying is that ordinary people have to take responsibility for what happens in the neighborhood, INCLUDING POLICE VIOLENCE AND MISCONDUCT. and this point...But the approach is to work for community-based solutions that address the root causes of crime as opposed to only advocating for a larger, more aggressive police presence.

    Holy Sh**. If that is what Alderman Shiller really, really is behind then can y'all stop kicking us in the teeth and saying the most awful things about us? Can't she just come out and say it? I can't speak for everyone else here or at the rally but I don't think that the prevailing sentiment is a desire for a more aggressive police presence. I think there is a desire for a more effective police presence with particular attention to reducing violent crime/gun violence. There is a difference.

    But no matter what, it is high time that the Alderman say and do something and also acknowledge that the community does in fact include middle class people who not only deserve but demand to be a part of "community solutions."

  13. And how do these "bad cops" and "culture of silence" tie into Couraj's view that "the residents staging the rally are 'condo owners' and members of other community organizations that are against Ald. Helen Shiller because she supports low-income housing"?

    How is protesting the murder of an Ghanian immigrant and the resulting paralysis of another man tied into the "sin" of condo owning and wanting safe streets?

  14. Ron (can I call you "Bull"? That'd be awesome) ...,

    I hear what you're saying and respect your opinion even if I don't agree 100%.

    However, the point of the matter rests on prevention. If we can prevent crime, then the police don't even come into the equation (in a perfect world, of course).

    Demonizing the police is "after the fact".

    Now, if you can prove that police corruption is a motivating factor in the commission of crime, I'm all ears.

    The "real reason" for the rally was to see if we could motivate our alderman into addressing the issue of crime. Not addressing police issues.

    With all honesty and respect, I must say that I don't have much trust or faith in COURAJ's mission.

    Where was COURAJ when Francis Oduro was slain in the street?

    Did COURAJ make any overtures of support/cooperation with the rally?

    The way I see it, COURAJ only stepped up when our alderman felt threatened when the community started to coordinate in response to her lack of response.

    And that response has been to belittle the rally and the intent, thereof.

    In light of such, the logical conclusion is that COURAJ is being used by the alderman, or in cahoots with the alderman to distract from the purpose of the rally.

    That's neither unity, nor productive.

    And, what is the response of COURAJ to the fact that the murderer of Francis Oduro has yet to be apprehended? (note that if the incident happened across the street from the alderman's office, what did that security camera pick up?)

  15. What I don't understand is why a group like COURAJ doesn't have a problem with the landlords. I mean most of the rental buildings in my neighborhood are in need of serious repairs. The owners of these building don't make the repairs so that they can make more money. That sounds a lot more evil than owning a condo IMO

  16. you know, i just moved into the 46th in march. i used to live in logan square, a fairly diverse neighborhood with mixed-income housing (especially on the west side of the square where i was).

    i've been in chicago for three years and when i first moved to logan, i heard all the horror stories about how it used to be 5 to 10 years ago, but for the most part, it was a pleasant place to live.

    so here i am...uptown resident...three months into my stay, i witnessed: one riot at the wilson stop (which my living room window overlooks), two shootings, and several fights.

    what's the big difference between these two neighborhoods? i just don't get it. when there was a shooting or a rape in logan, signs went up everywhere. white, latino, african-american...we were ALL pissed that this was happening in our neighborhood and were willing to keep an eye out for each other.

    here in uptown, crime seems to be treated by the alderman and these groups like some parent saying "oh, boys will be boys..." and then use that opportunity to grandstand about condo owners, blame gentrification, blame the cops, etc etc etc...

    seems like there is simply too much ego in this neighborhood to actually get anything accomplished. which is really sad.

  17. ron durham
    (i must say i wish people would use their real names on this blog so that they can take personal responsibility for what they say and write)

    When you speak out against the political powers in this town you have to be wary against retribution. Shiller has made it loud and clear that my demographic is somehow not diverse enough for her broken utopia.

    And unless ron is short for donald, you either don't live in uptown or that is not your real name.

  18. Methinks Ron lives in Uptown at the Catholic Workers House. Google his name and the hits keep on coming.

    Someone with that name has done time in the federal joint for protesting at military sites.

    I don't agree with this take on things, but I admire his willingness to stand up for his beliefs.

    Personally though I think it would be better if he avoided prison and worked on mentoring kids or something that avoided jail time.

    Now as to his assertion that the police need to be watched he is correct. It should largely be done internally in the department with a vigorous "internal affairs" apparatus and "integrity tests".

    About 8 years ago some cops on the NW side were stopping and shaking down/robbing Polish immigrants who were here illegally. CPD approached the FBI and a joint operation resulted in arrests and convictions. Undercover Polish speaking Feds went in. It was a thing of beauty.

    That being said the issue of police brutality is exaggerated. It exists, but not nearly to the extent it did 20 years ago in Chicago. The main issue should be focusing on reducing the violence in Uptown.

    Cops generally don't react violently unless they have to. The most used weapon they have is their verbal ability.

    Oh well on with the show.

  19. I know R. I feel the same way. The first day my husband and I ever spent together involved going to a protest against the KKK because they had decided to hold a rally in a small Ohio town. (Strange but true "first date" story!)

    I've got to admit that I was really hurt that my message of "peace on our streets" was met with such a hateful response. It takes a bit of courage to get off your arse and get out there and take a public stand on something.

    Other neighborhoods do exactly what you describe when something bad happens but as far as I can tell there hasn't been any public statement anywhere other than the rally to publicly recognize that a man was killed and another is now paralyzed. (Does anyone know how the family of the second victim is doing? There have been no more media reports...)

    Is it just me or is anyone else itching to participate in a vigil or whatever in another neighborhood where you can simply mean to say "no death on our streets" and people will actually just take you at your word and join in too?

  20. R..

    I know exactly what you mean. This is why I'm so frustrated. Any other neighborhood in Chicago, when senseless violence happens, everyone is in agreement that it must be stopped, officials denounce it publicly, and everyone bands together with signs and protests, etc. If violence happens in Uptown, the message we get is either A)nothing... or B)hey, it could be worse, if you don't like it, move. Oh, and if you talk against it, you must be racist and hate the poor.

    And of course,if you dared invest in Uptown by purchasing, you have NO say,because automatically you are rich, elitist, racist, you hate the poor, all you do is complain... why don't you move to Lincoln Park then? Of course... the 46th is more than happy to take my tax money to fund whatever they see fit... but I just need to shut my mouth already.

    This is why people are angry... yet we are being ridiculed for it? Seriously? Truly pathetic!

  21. Ronald Durham,

    What qualifications do you have to monitor the police? They see horrors everyday that you couldn't imagine. Criminals are nasty people. Uptown is full of Gang Bangers, Sexual Predetors, and Murderers. Lets just give the cops a whistle so they can call in Couraj to remedy the problem.

    Just another way you can treat people like victims and diminish there self worth. Oh did the big bad cops hurt you? Well that's ok because Couraj and Helen don't feel your ever going to amount to anything so we will build a wall around you so the bad law abiding people can't hurt you. Funny how I never get harassed by the cops in Chicago..oh I know it's because i am not BREAKING LAWS! Go figure. Hell when Stan retired from the Uptown beat I was at his partys, thanking him for helping our steets stay safe. Now we have Officer Walsh and Officer Miller walking the ward. You just see blue Ron, most of us in Uptown see the men behind it.

    You refer me to a "Reader" article? Thats not biased is it?

    Keep on creating victims Ron. Living the American Dream!

  22. thanks to being out of town for a week and having more time in front of a computer today than i ever have, let me just address a couple comments for the sake of this e-conversation.

    Helen Shiller is in no way behind the copwatch program. it's something that i've been working on for over a year, before i ever got involved with people at COURAJ. i personally am not a huge fan of Shiller (although as far as people on the city council go, i don't think she's that bad) and i have never voted for her, nor have i ever spoken with her except maybe by asking her a question as part of a meeting she had in the neighborhood a couple years ago about condo developments. The copwatch program has been in the planning stages since last fall and the press conference about it was in no way scheduled to preempt the rally in front of Shiller's office and she had absolutely nothing to do with any planning for it or for anything to do with copwatch.

    One of the reasons for the copwatch program is the fact that whenever i or someone else at our CAPS meeting has tried to talk about some questionable police practices we've been silenced and told that it is inappropriate to talk about police misconduct at the CAPS meeting. With time, however, it seems like the situation at the meetings is improving and the sargeant is more open to letting us speak. i hope this continues.

    also, in response to the violence in the nieghborhood COURAJ has met with and is working with many of the people in the community who are most impacted by it. we agree that there is a serious problem with violence on the street and that people who are involved in it should be held accountable for their actions. We will continue to work with people in the community to work toward both long and short term solutions to the problems. the violence in the street does not mean that anybody (including those involved in violence) should be denied their human and constitutional rights. if you don't agree with that then sign up for a stint working at guantanamo. and if you don't believe that people's rights are being violated i'd be willing to talk more about that with you.

    fruthermore, let's face it, we live in a violent culture and a lot of the violence on the street is a reflection of the more wide-spread violence of our government, corporations and economic system. that in NO WAY excuses individual responsibility for those involved in it, but we all have to reflect on the ways in which we contribute to violent systems, especially economically. is someone on the street knocking an old woman over the head to take her purse worse than someone who makes a nice profit working for a corporation that exploits people all over the world or pollutes the shit out of the environment (say Chiquita, BP or the whole pharaceutical industry)? It's easy to point the finger at the alderwoman, the cops, politicians, "gang-bangers",condo-owners etc. it's more difficult to identify ways in which we all contribute to a violent culture that affects people all over the world and work toward changing it, even if it means we shop less. i'm all for people doing community watches and things like that, in fact, i think COURAJ had something like that going years ago.

    one thing that plays significantly in this conversation though (and Dave Williams got at this point in the article) is that low income people (most of us not involved in violence) are having a difficult time staying in the nieghborhood due to rising rents and property taxes. and many of the people active in the CAPS program are higher-income people working to reduce the amount of low-income housing in the neighborhood. I think that is why many low income people in Uptown (including myself) are skeptical. some of us might think that the anti-violence slogan and rally may be a front for a gentrification campaign much like the "Housing for Artists" slogan really meant we don't want the Wilson Yard project to go through because we feel there are already too many poor people living in Uptown. And it seems that a major problem that many of the people who frequent this site have with Shiller is that she is in favor of concentrating low-income housing in the neighborhood. So maybe we need to interact more to understand and trust each other more.

    and "Uptown Dad" as far as i know, even the city does not refute any of the facts that John Conroy reported. They denied it all years ago, but deny none of it now. and in fact the CPD's (and State's Attorney's Office's) refusal to investigate and descipline officers involved in misconduct has increased over the last few years, and that's based on the statistics the research team from the University of Chicago Law School did, which is in the report in the link i posted earlier.

  23. Ron,

    I respect your right as a citizen to do what you are doing.

    When judgment day comes, I am going to stand by the police.

    Like I said, I respect your right to do it.

  24. Ron Durham,

    I can't speak for every condo owner here, but here is my issue. I have zero issues with he current low-income housing that has already been established in Uptown. None. I don't want to kick people out, I don't want to convert it all into condos. I moved to Uptown specifically because it was diverse and affordable.

    Here are the issues that I personally have with the developments proposed at WY.

    1. They cost more per unit than the average condo in Uptown. Yet no one upset about this, why?

    2. It is already a proven fact that concentrating low income housing into one confined area is a very BAD idea. Why is Helen Shiller insisting on repeating the past mistakes of the Daley dynasty?

    3. Why is whenever people in this community push for better living conditions for those who live in low-income housing by demanding that property owners keep their buildings to code, do we get demonized for that, and Shiller goes to court in defense of the landlord who is laxing on his responsibilities to his tenants? If she truly cares about the poor wouldn't she be the advocate for them, and not for the greedy landlord?

    4. Why is it that Couraj sent out, what I essentially consider HATE MAIL to potential home owners, telling them NOT to buy in Uptown because its driving out 'working families'? Last time I checked, my husband and I work our butt off, and we are a family.

    Bottom line, I don't appreciate being treated like some sort of white devil simply because I worked hard and I earned the right to own a home. I've done nothing to deserve to be treated that way by Couraj, and I dont' deserve to be ignored and told to move back to Lincoln Park by my Alderman, whose salary I help pay for, simply because I ask what her plans are to deter crime in her Ward. I believe that is an issue on the table of EVERY Ward office, and it shouldn't be brushed off by anyone.

    There are obviously trust issues, but I believe Couraj and Alderman Shiller's office needs to accept a partial responsibility for that mistrust.

  25. Look at the people who are arrested in Uptown. The majority are low income minorities. Is this because the police target them? No! Look at the reports filed by the Uptown residents. The majority of the named offenders and offender descriptions are... Minorities. So if you take away police initiated stops and look at police response to crime initiated by the victims calling the police you would find that the minority commits the majority of the crime in Uptown.

  26. Does anyone know where CourAss gets its funding?

  27. I came across an interesting article in Crain's today that seems relevant to the issues that some people have been raising here. Here it is

    Crain's reports that Chicago's middle class shrank by 14% between 1970 and 2005. The decline was above the average of other metropolitan areas and so Chicago ranked 8/100 on this measure. Using very rough figures, Chicago's "middle class" would be households and families with incomes falling somewhere in the low $30,000s to the mid $60,000s, depending on family size. (Although these are just rough numbers, it really is worth thinking about how many people have to live off these incomes and how many people have to be working in order to earn them.)

    At some earlier point on this blog I brought up a comment that a director at REST made about Uptown. This person said that Uptown and its environs are taking on a "dumbbell" shape when it came to economic diversity (i.e., larger at the top and and bottom with less in the middle.) This Crain's article reminded me of that comment and felt appropriate to what is being discussed here.

    I also think that any way you slice it, Chicago aldermen fall outside the bounds of "the middle class" and that aldermen without any dependents earn almost 260% above the median income for Chicago households. Something I pondered as I enjoyed my latte this morning...

  28. Saskia

    Maybe the real issue is why are these people having families when they are only making enough to keep float?

    The biggest issue facing America is irresponsible breading. Since 1970 it has become worse, and with it the structure of family has gone down the drain.

    Not only is most street crime a direct effect of it, but also financially to the tax payers, courts, and cities.

  29. Well, dad. I don't agree with you at all but no hard feelings. I disagree with you because wages have been stagnant for most Americans, good jobs on the low end are rare even though there is money to be made on the high end but then again working hours have gone up for those folks. Given these facts, personal responsibility explanations can only go so far. Therefore, I feel that it behooves a mixed-income community to really consider these kind of things. Who really is "rich"? What are the ranges of experience in this community? Clearly we've got a lot of dogma washing around here and while it may be politically expedient in the short run I'll put my money on the fact that it isn't good for this community in the long run.

    Again, my goal is never to cram my thoughts down anyone's throat. I just like to get people talking so that something might break the logjam that is this neighborhood! We've got good people here of all walks of life and it is so painful to watch everyone smack each other around (figuratively and literally!)

    I hope you have a great father's day. Anyone who decides to identify themselves as "Uptown dad" on a message board clearly has his priorities in order.

  30. Saskia,

    That is what makes me a Libetarian and you a democrat. No hard feelings, we just see the world differently.

    "...a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." -
    --Thomas Jefferson

    Oh and Mr. Jefferson said the solution for irresponibility lies not in removing choices from the irresponsible. Rather , the solution is to inform, educate, and allow people to suffer the consequences of their own actions.

    As socialism is cramed further down our throats by Dems & Reps, out economy will continue sinking.

    Thanks for the Fathers Day wishes!