Tempers flared, emotions ran wild and tension was high Wednesday night at a community meeting held to discuss the recent crime in Boystown, including the videotaped stabbing of a 25-year-old man on Sunday.
Hundreds of people, including Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), packed the auditorium at Lakeview’s Inter-American Elementary Magnet School for a two-hour Community Alternative Policing Strategy meeting that quickly turned into a heated debate about the root of the crime.
At the beginning of the meeting, Tunney briefly reiterated a statement he made earlier in the week about the recent crime, emphasizing his desire to bring more police into the community.
Dozens of people then took turns at the front of the auditorium sharing their opinions about and criticism of racism, crime, the police and Tunney.
Suggestions from audience members ranged from installing emergency call boxes on the streets to carrying concealed weapons, and from constructing more homeless centers in the neighborhood to having police patrol on bicycle during the late hours of the night.
The two-hour meeting, which was full of yelling, cheers, booing and fights, ended without a consensus or any actionable decisions. Afterward, many attendees agreed that while what went down at the meeting wasn’t a surprise, they reiterated their hopes for an end to the violence.
“I was a little worried that it was going to turn into a little riot but I’m actually glad a lot of people expressed their feelings about both sides,” said Brandi Kneedly, 24, of Lakeview. “The biggest thing that I think we got from this is that we’re all going to figure out a way to help the groups that are helping the young people.”
Boystown resident Tony Hoshaw, 32, said he was expecting “the overflow of emotion, the heated reactions and even in the crowd a lot of fighting and name-calling.”
But, he added, “I have to say I’m really incredibly disappointed in the meeting because of the lack of civility, the lack of compassion. It seems to be really uncharacteristic [of what] we just celebrated in June.”
Hoshaw also said he felt that Wednesday’s community discussion was necessary, despite the fact that it did not address solutions to the increase in crime.
“I think a lot of important issues around the incident about larger social-economic injustices, racial injustices, homelessness, sort of more systemic issues were addressed, which might be frustrating for a lot of people, but it needs to be talked about if we’re ever going to get on preventing crime,” he said.
Nicholas Fairman, 31, of Boystown, didn’t think the meeting was very productive.
“It was completely unfocused,” he said, adding that he felt only a few people who talked suggested constructive ideas. “Everything else was just kind of a sob story of their own personal life, which is understandable, but I don’t think that’s what these sort of forums are for.”
Fairman added: “I hope that somebody’s paying attention to what the suggestions were and the rest of its just being considered unfortunate rhetoric. I think the goal was not obtained as far as just actually addressing the fact there is an increase of violence in the neighborhood, who’s creating it and who’s the victim.”