Ald. Ray Lopez’s candor about gang violence sets powerful example
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It took a lot of courage for Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) to say what he did after gang warfare broke out in his ward, leaving 11 people shot, three fatally, and two police officers wounded.
Speaking at a rally held after the violent attacks, Lopez said publicly what most of us secretly think:
“[I’m] thankful today that no innocent lives were lost,” the first-time alderman told the crowd.
Those words didn’t sit well with some residents.
“They’re not animals. They were people. They mattered and you’re talking about them like s—!” a woman yelled.
“That was my family! They mattered.”
Lopez’s candor about the gang violence has made him a target, prompting the Chicago Police Department to provide 24-hour security for him and his family.
This ugly reaction to Lopez’s honest assessment of the violence shows why it has been difficult to stop the gang violence.
Too many people living in the neighborhoods under siege by violence have accepted gangs — which are mostly driven by illegal drug dealing — as an acceptable way of life.
While the shooting deaths of so many young men in this city — most of them African-American and Hispanic — is tragic, a lot of these deaths are not unexpected.
Too many of the victims and the perpetrators were involved in a lifestyle that could only lead to prison or to the cemetery.
Yes, all lives matter.
But all deaths are not honorable.
When Blair Holt was killed 10 years ago while shielding a classmate from gunfire, it was a tragic but honorable death.
On Wednesday, a street sign was placed outside of Julian High School to honor the slain teen.
When a young person dies trying to kill someone else, or is the victim of a retaliatory shooting, it is indeed a sad waste of human potential.
But as Lopez points out, these victims are not innocents.
“[We] have people who are willing to kill indiscriminately to maintain this culture of gang violence and retaliatory warfare in our communities,” he said.
A lot of aldermen tiptoe around this issue, not only because they are afraid for their own safety but also because they are fearful of offending voters.
Frankly, it is a lot easier to rail against brutal police officers than it is to call out the gangbangers living down the block.
Back in the day, gangbangers had respect for the elderly, the preachers and the politicians.
But gang members are getting bolder.
If you get in their way, they know where you live, what kind of car you drive and where you work.
It is a lot safer to keep one’s head down and stay on Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson’s back.
Some will argue that, as an alderman, he should have shown compassion for the people who had come to mourn their dead.
But you can’t have a rally against violence and totally ignore that the young men who were killed were responsible for that violence.
Lopez has taken a stand that elected officials could and should have been taken a long time ago.
The next time the City Council honors a police officer or firefighter for courage, they should also honor one of their own.