Who is protecting the children and mothers on the streets of Chicago?
I had just turned out of the parking lot of our Precious Blood Center on my way to a meeting in downtown Chicago when two of our kids hollered from the bus stop, “Sister, you got some change?”
While I was waiting for the light to turn green so I could turn onto a side street and find my change, a car pulled up out of nowhere on my right and the driver said, “Go, the light’s green.”
I ignored him because I wanted to turn and he was in my turn lane, so I motioned for him to go and he sped off. I turned the corner, wondering what that was all about. I found some change, gave it to the kids and thought I would be on my way, only to find the same car and driver right in front of my car, hood to hood.
Feeling a bit fearful, I quickly turned into a nearby alley, backed out and went on my way, hoping I could get to my meeting on time. I was again waiting for the light to turn green, when the same man showed up on my left, window rolled down, showing me his Chicago Police badge! Oops!
Then he began to interrogate me: “Do you know where you are going?” (I still have Ohio plates and, being an elderly white woman, I understood why he might have thought that I was lost!) I replied, “Yes, sir.”
“Did you know those kids that you were talking to?”
“Sure, those are our kids!”
“What are you doing in this neighborhood?”
“I work here.” (He looked surprised!)
“Do you know there are lots of shootings all around here? It is very dangerous.”
“Yes, I do know.”
“It is really not safe for you here.”
Finally, I was on my way to the meeting, but I couldn’t help wondering if he cared as much about our children, our mothers standing at bus stops unprotected, as he did for me. They are the ones who are not safe. I felt sad and angry all at the same time.
When I told Lamonte Lay, one of our youth, what had happened to me, he told me his experience of being pulled over by a police officer as he was driving home one evening:
The cop said, “Step out of the car.”
I thought to myself, Damn, I thought he just wanted my license and insurance. I got out of the car and put my hands on my trunk.
The cop asked, “Where you on your way to?”
I answered, “Just leaving my girlfriend’s house.”
The cop asked, “Do you have anything in the car?”
I answered, “No, I don’t smoke.”
He checked the car. A second cop told me to come to the back seat of the squad car so he could run my name. He put me in handcuffs and into the back seat.
He asked if I had ever been arrested, and I said, “Yeah.” He got my description, and we waited about ten minutes.
The second cop said, “He’s clear.” They let me out and I drove off.
Yesterday, I was sitting in a circle of youth who are ambassadors of peace in their respective schools. Each student told of his/her experiences of being pulled over by police and questioned. Each one had a story that no child should ever read, experience or witness.
The children in our neighborhood live with the constant sound of police sirens and gunshots. They live in fear of being stopped by the police, of being shot or being arrested for criminal activity while innocent.
For these children, it is hard to sleep at night; and for us who read these stories and live among them, it is also hard to sleep.
Is it not our Precious Blood spirituality that keeps us awake and calls us to stay with these children until all is well?
This story originally appeared in the March issue of the Cincinnati C.PP.S. Newsletter – reprinted with permission.
- By Sister Donna Liette