Boystown residents debate violence, loitering and gay youth

Wed. July 6, 2011 10:15 PM by Kevin Wayne

alderman tom tunney addresses crowd during caps meeting

photo credit // spike king

Lengthy CAPS meeting long on audience comment, short on solutions

Chicago, IL - 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney and 23rd District Commander Kathleen Boehmer addressed resident concerns over neighborhood violence during a packed Community Alternative Policing meeting on Wednesday night.

Residents of the North Side neighborhood, which is the central hub to Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, have grown increasingly alarmed after a video of a man being beaten and stabbed hit the Internet earlier this week.

As Gender JUST protested outside, a crowd estimated at over 500 people, ranging from neighborhood residents, business owners and patrons, LGBT gay youth and their supporters and Chicago media, packed into the auditorium of the Inter-American Elementary School, 851 W. Waveland Ave. 

The meeting was opened by Chicago Police Sgt. Beth Giltmier, who lead the discussion. Tunney read a statement he issued earlier in the day, where he called on Chicago Police to create a special "entertainment detail" to assist beat police in congested entertainment districts, including Boystown.

One resident was booed when he called for the resignation of Tunney, who was joined at the front of the auditorium by 46th Ward Alderman James Capplema, Commander Boehmer, LGBT police liaison Jose Rios, two 23rd District beat officers and number of other representatives.

John Cunningham, who along with his partner Rob Sall recorded the disturbing video, addressed the crowd and praised police. The couple announced plans for a police appreciation party.

One speaker called out the Chicago Police for downplaying the most recent stabbing attack and then he lists a number of other violent attacks that have happened in the neighborhood since June 1.

Two-minute statements from dozens of audience participants continued for nearly 2 hours, with race and racism making up a majority of the contentious discussion.

"There needs to be civility," declared one attendee to applause. "We're talking race, not racism."

"This is racism," retorted an African American man. "There are no resources in other areas of the city for queer youth."

Tempers began to flare at about one hour into the meeting as public comments were often meet with vocal reaction.

One supporter of the LGBT youth was booed when asking city representatives for additional money to fund citywide programs for LGBT youth.

"We spent 30 million dollars on the Center on Halsted," shouted someone in the crowd to loud cheers.

Roscoe's owner Jim Ludwig said everyone needs to respect the neighborhood. He told the youth they are welcome. His comments were interrupted by disruptive youth who were growing restless in the audience.

"Make the Center what it was meant to be," Boystown resident Dennis Sneyers told the crowd.

At 8:55 p.m. the meeting, which started at 7 p.m., was called to a close with nearly one-third of the audience having already exited during the lengthy comment session.

Many in the crowd said the meeting was long on comment and short on solutions.

Noting there wasn't time to fully discuss solutions, Sgt. Giltmier promised more meetings to address the issue of loitering and violence in Boystown.

Commander Boehmer ended the meeting by telling the crowd there would be additional police resources on the street between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The next CAPS meeting is scheduled for August 3.