By Mark Weyermuller -
My family and I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas tradition of attending the children's pageant at Fourth Presbyterian Church on the Magnificent Mile. It was a beautiful evening with temperatures in the high 40's on Michigan Avenue in the center of Chicago. The church had about 2000 people attending a service full of scripture, traditional hymns, and a candlelight singing of Silent Night.
Just outside and across from the church, a protest was taking place closing down Michigan Avenue.
I counted about 150 in the group with hundreds of police and maybe a hundred members of the media. One man was holding a sign which read, "Rahm must go." There were thousands of last minute shoppers on the street, many paying little attention to the protest.
The protest was generally peaceful as I watched for close to an hour. The group marched from the Chicago River to Water Tower Place, stopping several times at each intersection. Part of their plan was to disrupt or stop holiday shopping. Each intersection was blocked by several hundred police officers mostly on bikes. There were also 14 officers on horses along with quite a few on foot and in vehicles. Two thoughts came to mind:
The first is how important it is that people in this country have the freedom to protest. The issues of violence in Chicago should be of major concern to everybody. It might be considered good that so many concerned citizens have taken to the streets to make a difference.
Now on the flip side, this group was making a major disruption including violating multiple laws like forcing street closures, disturbing the peace, and possibly violating other people's civil rights. The obvious cost, probably in millions, is a concern for businesses and tax payers.,Furthermore with crime issues in other parts of the city, the resources were dedicated here for a protest. Some are calling for arrests of these protesters to get the city back to normal.
In reviewing crime blotters, there are issues in the rest of the city that need a higher police presence. For example, Lakeview, specifically boys-town has had a major increase in burglaries, robberies, and assaults this holiday season. Sections of the south and west side, continue to have an increase in violent crime including shootings and murders.
One might question if these protests are causing more harm then good. Some want Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. Others are concerned about alleged police brutality. I have found that most Chicagoans want the violence to stop. Finding a solution is very difficult.
Of course, politics and agendas are driving much of the turmoil. The irony of a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ while others are marching for justice is concerning. For me, I hope and pray for solutions that will help all Chicagoans with justice for everybody.