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Eddie Johnson grieves over unrest that has torn through city: ‘But we will endure’

Former Police superintendent says his decision to join peace marchers two years ago ‘turned out to be the right thing to do’

Vigil Held For George Floyd, Who Was Killed In Police Custody In Minneapolis
A group of artists paint a mural of George Floyd on the wall outside of Cup Foods, where Floyd was killed in police custody, on May 28 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Time marches on.

Former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is a man with a broken heart.

“I still love the city and the (police) department, and this is absolutely breaking my heart to see the violence happening in the city,” texted the former African American top cop who grew up in Cabrini-Green housing projects.

Johnson has kept silent since his dramatic firing in December 2019, a month earlier than his planned retirement, by a visibly angry Mayor Lori Lightfoot claiming he had lied to her in the midst of a preliminary probe of a drinking-and-driving incident.

“All of us should stand for no violence in Chicago,” Johnson said, referring to the looting and burning of Chicago shops and businesses following peaceful marches protesting the monstrous Minneapolis cop killing of African American George Floyd.

Let’s march back in time.

In August 2018, Johnson, who has remained mum awaiting the release of a final report on the incident by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson — melded into top cop and a protester at the same time.

That’s when Johnson decided to march arm-in-arm with the Rev. Michael Pfleger alongside thousands of anti-violence protesters down the Dan Ryan Expressway after an August 2018 weekend of bloody carnage in Chicago’s violence-torn black neighborhoods.

Johnson claimed then he never intended that to happen.

“It was a last-minute decision,” he told Sneed. “It turned out to be the right thing to do, but I agonized over those few decisive seconds.”

“I suppose you could say it was like an epiphany,” Johnson said back then.

“There was conflict within me doing that . . . and only for a second did I wonder about my job. . . but here’s what won the day,” he said. “I wondered what my mom and dad would want me to do. What the man in me would have done. And the police side of me.

“But all of these parts added up to this answer: to be against violence.

“I remember watching Rev. Jesse Jackson’s face when I joined the march. It was something to see. We should all be about non-violence and saving lives. We have to be in it together,” he said then.

US-politics-crime-demonstration-Chicago-homicide
Father Michael Pfleger (2nd left) and Reverend Jesse Jackson (2nd right) walk with Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson during an anti-violence protest, which shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago, July 7, 2018.
Jim Young/AFP via Getty Images

“And we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: the fact many people in the black community don’t trust the police, their fear of retribution from gang-bangers for cooperating in investigations, or fear the detectives won’t do their jobs if they do cooperate,” he said.

“We know we’ve all got to work on and repair these relationships and develop trust in being able to keep people safe if they decide to testify in court.”

Has he marched this time?

“No, I haven’t,” he texted.

“Just watching from afar.

“Remember, Mike, my immune system is compromised by my kidney transplant, so I can’t afford COVID right now.”

“But,” he added. “We will endure.”

Breaking bad . . .

It was love in the time of the coronavirus.

One plate at a time.

Thus, restaurateur Phil Stefani stepped up to the plate and at his calculation put his free food truck in gear and sped 15,000 free meals to the city’s first responders, which included hospitals and all the police and fire stations minus three, during the first three months of COVID-19.

“It was the right thing to do. No regrets,” said Stefani, who owns or manages 14 eateries in Chicago and its suburbs.

Then it happened.

On Saturday night — in the midst of “rioters” looting during the peaceful protests — all hell broke loose when he video checked their River North property, Bar Cargo, minutes after they sent their employees home at 9 p.m.

“Fifteen seconds into the video, we watched car after car pull up and break into the bar and load up with our specialty Roman pizzas; liquor; wine; iPads; and computers,” said Stefani. “Then they trashed a restaurant across the street.”

“These people weren’t the protesters with a righteous cause,” he said. “These were rioters; white as well as black; organized and on a mission to steal.”

Does Stefani regret the largess of his donation?

“I have no regrets helping heroes,” he added.

Amen.

Sneedlings . . .

Memo to the big bunches of men and women in blue gabbing it up in less than arm’s length groups at monitored traffic entrances at Oak Street and Lake Shore Drive: No masks either? . . . . Saturday’s birthdays: Carole Baskin, 59; Vic Mensa, 27; and DeAndre Hopkins, 28. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Liam Neeson, 68; Allen Iverson, 45; and Mike Pence, 61.