Although I live in Cleveland, I take a deep and personal interest in what goes on in Chicago. (Two of my children live there.) So it was shocking to me to see that over the July 4th weekend in Chicago, there were (depending on how you keep score) 82 people shot, of whom 14 died. These are distressingly large numbers, but as big as they are, they are only part of the yearly total, which (as I write) is 2,223 shot and 356 killed.
The more I pondered these numbers, the more it seemed to me that we are witnessing a sort of “slow-motion” riot. Granted, we do not see mobs of people in the streets looting stores or burning cars, but honestly, except for that, how does “Summer 2016 in Chicago” differ from a riot? There is frequent gunfire, law-abiding residents are afraid to go out on their porches, and lawless young men are running wild committing crimes.
Then I thought about the riot we all saw last year in Baltimore, the one that followed the death of Freddie Gray. Now, there was a riot! They had looters in the streets, hooligans throwing rocks at police, and general mayhem.
And I remembered… at one point, the Mayor of Baltimore gave orders to her police that they should refrain from attempting to arrest looters. The Mayor made an “Executive Decision” that – considering the large number of rioters in the streets – if her police were to try to arrest them, there would inevitability be a considerable loss-of-life. So she decided: A looted, burned out storefront is a “bad thing,” but a dozen dead people is worse.
She took a lot of criticism for her decision, but most residents agreed that – considering the alternatives – it was better to rebuild a few blocks of distressed real estate than to have a dozen more Freddie Grays.
So, while there is still time to rescue “Summer 2016 in Chicago,” I want to suggest to the Mayor of Chicago that he, too, should make an “Executive Decision.” He should issue a Mayoral Proclamation by which he officially “Declares a Riot.” He should go before the microphones and declare that Chicago is “besieged by rioters,” and – as Chief Executive of the City – he has decided to take decisive action, as follows:
First, he should describe the nature of the “riot.” Which is: That certain drug dealers are running around the city lawlessly “looting” the territories, profits and customers of other drug dealers, and although these rioters are (thoughtfully) ignoring Chicago’s convenience stores, liquor stores and nail salons, the violence they commit against other drug dealers is both appalling and unacceptable.
The Mayor should then inform all Chicagoans that he has given orders to the police that – during the pendency of the “riot” – they are to refrain from attempting to arrest or detain any residents by reason of their possession, use or sale of marijuana, in any quantities. (The Mayor might also suggest that if any residents want to set up storefronts to sell the stuff, the police will not disrupt those businesses.) His reasoning in this instance is clear.
When there is a riot going on, you (if you are the Mayor) cannot trouble yourself with petty crimes, nor can you unnecessarily burden your city’s already exhausted police by trying to enforce a law which is only making things worse.
Here is how the Mayor’s policy would help. No more petty harassment of young black men for no compelling reason. No more “pretext” traffic stops (you know, “Failure to Signal a Lane Change”) designed to fish for a quick bust over a simple joint. No more endlessly sending young black men back to jail on drug warrants or parole violations. No more residents carrying a 9mm to defend their “turf.”
Just eighty years ago, the people of Chicago (and the rest of the country) got tired of all the violence, murders and corruption caused by Prohibition (by the “black market” in alcohol which Prohibition created), and they put an end to it. Now, when we look around our city, we see Chicago is suffering the very same sort of harm, all of which is attributable – directly or indirectly – to an almost-identical “black market” in a relatively harmless weed.
Ask yourself this: If you were the Mayor of Chicago, how would you balance the “harm” to society caused by the current “slow-motion riot” we see around us, compared to the “harm” that we would witness, were many of the residents of the South Side to be found (peacefully and legally) sitting out on their front porches, smoking a little weed?
All we need is that one, wise “Executive Decision” by our Mayor.