Englewood residents are reeling after a 20-year-old man was shot by police Sunday afternoon in the South Side Chicago neighborhood.
On Monday, activist Joseph Williams told WBEZ that he was on the scene in the 5700 block of South Racine Avenue not long after Sunday’s shooting. He said neighbors gathered on the block and demanded answers from police. Residents had heard reports on social media that a 15-year-old was shot and killed by officers, Williams said. Police would later say that those reports were inaccurate.
As the crowd grew and more police were called to the scene, Williams said police outnumbered community members and some officers grew violent toward residents as tensions rose.
“You got police officers that I watched with my own eyes pull people toward them just to beat them, swinging a baton bat, crushing people, grabbing them, kicking them on the ground,” Williams said.
He added that community members weren’t just upset about the shooting. “I think they were more upset about how the police were treating them,” he said. “The police were disrespecting them.”
Williams said the Englewood community’s relationship with the police “is diminishing every single day because we hope for them to do us right, to protect us and to serve us, and when they come and they do stuff like that… it builds up.”
In a news conference Monday morning, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said that overnight looting downtown was driven by misinformation following the police shooting Sunday.
“The seeds for the shameful destruction we saw last night were sown in the 5700 block of South Racine Avenue.,” Brown said. “The shooter is a 20-year-old man with four previous arrests for charges including burglary, child endangerment and domestic battery.”
“After this shooting, a crowd gathered on the South Side following the police action. Tempers flared, fueled by misinformation as the afternoon turned into evening,” Brown continued.
Brown said that police became aware of social media posts encouraging looting downtown. As a result, 400 officers were dispatched downtown, he said.
But Williams, who heads a nonprofit called The Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, said he had not heard of any such plans over social media among thousands of his contacts.
“I’ve got a pretty good following,” Williams said. “I’ve got 5,000 friends on Facebook, [and] I haven’t seen one single person … post to say, ‘let’s go downtown.’”
Quilen Blackwell is an Englewood resident and leads Chicago Eco House, an urban farm and workforce development non-profit that engages young people in the neighborhood. He said he, too, had not heard of plans to loot businesses downtown.
“Incidents like last night are overshadowing a lot of good work that goes on in our communities every day,” Blackwell said. “I think the media is starting to define us this summer by the violence and the riots and basically all the negative things are going on, but there’s actually been a lot of positive things going on this summer.”
Blackwell said there’s a stronger “spirit of unity” than in previous years, and the youths who work in his program have been engaged and working hard. “We should keep in mind that what we’re seeing is a fringe element of what overall is going on in our neighborhoods,” he said.
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.