Safe zones

Marquinn MacDonald speaks to a crowd of about 80 people at the BP Station on the corner of E. 52nd St. and S. Lake Park Ave. Saturday morning, Jan. 30.

The nascent effort by a group of local residents to help prevent carjackings continues. At a rally on Jan. 23, the group announced that it would create and man "safe zones" at gas stations in Hyde Park and other nearby communities. This past Saturday morning, Jan. 30, about 80 people gathered for a second rally at the BP Station on the corner of 52nd Street and South Lake Park Avenue and then deployed to a number of South Side neighborhoods.

The effort now has a name, "Community First Safe Passage Initiative," and branded face masks. Steven DeJoie, a lead organizer, represented the group at U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush’s virtual town hall on carjackings held Monday evening. 

At the Jan. 30 rally, attorney and WVON host Ernest B. Fenton explained to the assembled crowd that they were going to be divided into "teams" under the direction of team leaders. He said that the teams would focus on specific neighborhoods on the South Side. As he spoke, Fenton handed out "intake questionnaires" that requested information about each participant and listed the neighborhoods of Auburn Gresham, Avalon, Bronzeville, Chatham, Englewood, Hyde Park, Roseland and South Shore as the areas to be targeted by the teams.

After explaining how the effort was being organized, Fenton lifted his voice, looked over the crowd and said, “All right, let me say this. We are not here to be police. We ain’t here to criminalize young Black boys.” (The crowd interjected chants of “absolutely” and “no, no, no.”) ”What we are here to do,’’ continued Fenton, “is to let them know that as Black men, we care enough to show up.”

Marquinn MacDonald, one of the original organizers of the effort, reminded the crowd to “Be safe and vigilant.” 

“We are here just to deter,” continued MacDonald. “If you can and feel it necessary … to speak to a brother, it’s cool. If you want to assist a sister in pumping the gas, by all means. However, it’s not necessary to jump out (and confront someone). We not the police. Dial 911, use them. We pay them our tax dollars, use them. Make them work.”

“This is not the first time, this not the last time, we be doing this,” MacDonald said. 

The efficacy of the group’s efforts are not known, but organizers did say that while the safe zones were being manned the previous Saturday, no carjackings occurred. 

To learn more about the future efforts of the Community First Safe Passage Initiative, contact the group at communityfirst2021@gmail.com

(1) comment

jaye els

Yeah OK. Sounds reasonable. But how about just punishing people who use guns to car jack, steal people's cars? If the car jackers are deemed to young to be punished as adults and do jail time, how about public shaming? Have some religious leaders make them hold signs that tell the community that bad things they did. Armed robberies with guns threatening to kill people, that's very serious.

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