Friday, January 15, 2010

Lincoln Avenue, 2 a.m. January 15

At about 2 a.m. I was awakened by the cheer of what sounded like hundreds of people. Must be football playoffs on at the 13 bars on the block. I rolled over to try to get back to sleep.

Wait a minute. Since when are football playoffs on at 2 in the morning? I went outside to investigate.

Up the street, in front of Lion Head, were hundreds of people. The bar must have just closed and let everyone out. When I arrived, there were hundreds of people surrounding several dozen brawlers, all beating the crap out of one another. The onlookers were cheering and laughing about it, as if it were great fun. They did nothing to stop it. Not one police car was in sight.

This was a riot, people. If it had happened with police around, there would have been about 50 arrests.

Finally, a few minutes later, a police car attempts to get up the street -- in an annoyingly leisurely way. Their lights were on, but they weren't getting there. Granted, they were somewhat stuck behind a long line of taxis, but I wondered why they didn't take the oncoming lane, like they do when there is an emergency. This was an emergency, I thought.

By the time the cops got there, the party had broken up and people were kind of scattering, at least a little. There seemed to be no urgency. I can almost understand why cops would not want to risk their own safety by grabbing a load of idiotic drunks, when they needed to conserve themselves for the actual bad guys. But these drunks are destructive, vandalizing, disturbing the peace, hurting people. They are committing a crime, and they also need to be shown that this kind of behavior is not acceptable at 2 a.m. These are bad guys.

I had grabbed one of the officers and was motioning wildly to him: "There, there's one of the offenders!" One of the brawlers was walking south down Lincoln, bragging to his two buddies, "Did you see? I busted that guy's fucking head!" But the officer took no action. "Apprehend him! Where are the witnesses?" The officer said that witnesses never come forward in a situation like this. Then the guy kicked a street barricade and I said, "Look, he's vandalizing something!" That is when the officers finally took action.

Although there were three guys, they only got the one who had kicked the barricade. They let the other two continue to walk down the street. "But the other two! They were involved! I saw that one dragging a guy around!" But they did nothing. The officer told me that I should come to court and testify about this one guy. "He'll think twice before doing this again," he said, alluding to the hefty fine he would be given for disturbing the peace.

Great. One guy will "think twice." But what about the other 40 or so brawlers, and the hundreds of people who stood there doing nothing? They must still think it was just good, clean fun.

But this was a riot.

And in case you think that this is some remote occurrence in Lincoln Park -- one of the toniest neighborhoods in the world -- it isn't. This kind of brawl happens on the block with astonishing regularity.

I just don't know what to do anymore. Where is the alderman? Where is the police protection? Where is the media? Is there a god?

Update: Went to mail a letter that Monday. Saw that someone had puked into the mailbox. It's frozen on. I called the alderman, who called the post office. But as of February 28, six weeks later, it's still there.

Update: Sent the following e-mail March 16, 8:45 a.m. to Quigley, Daley, Smith: "The U.S. mailbox at Lincoln and Webster still has dried vomit covering the inside of the chute, more than two months after I first reported it. I have reported it to the alderman, the Postal Service, and the congressman. If we mere citizens could clean it off, we would, but that would soak the mail. And so we are depending on powerful people to move this project forward."

Update update: It's April 5, 2010. I've had conversations with the congressman's staff as well as the alderman's staff. It's been over 13 weeks and still nothing's been done. Why doesn't one of them get out there with a pail and a sponge?