To the Editor and Hyde Park and surrounding community:
A difficult time was made worse this week when a heavily armed white man was seen walking unfettered at various places along the retail corridor of East 53rd Street. Pictures and videos from that day do not show any identification. Questions raced through local social media and list servs. Was he from the National Guard and there to support local police? Private security? Or simply a private citizen? Importantly, we witnessed what once again looked like kid-glove treatment of armed, white citizens when video shows him talking with police and being allowed to carry on.
It was later reported that he was a private security guard hired by Akira. Discussions in listserv groups and on social media registered disappointment, upset, and even outrage by some community members, and many raised questions about not only what appeared to be unequal treatment of armed, white citizens as compared to treatment of Black and Brown people but also what is allowed for private security and off-duty police and military personnel.
These questions are good ones, and the issues are important and timely. There is already a local effort underway to reprise and revamp legislation focused on private police. A small group of residents who have been involved in security issues in the past have come together over the last several months to think about how we can balance the additional protection afforded Hyde Park with a greater sensitivity to issues of fairness and social justice. It seems that we have to revisit this question every few years, whether it is because of a private security guard traipsing along 53rd Street with high-capacity clips and a semi-automatic weapon or a mentally ill student being shot by University of Chicago police.
The founders of this group are parents and private citizens who want to make sure that our children are safe from anyone who might harm or harass them. That is the inspiration for our efforts. We appreciate the recent addition of local legislators to our list of advisors and are looking for additional voices to be added to our action. If you are interested and want to join us, email Safer Campus and Community Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org or safercampusandcommunity.org.
Safer Campus & Community Coalition: Grace Chan McKibben, Hyde Park; Gabriel Piemonte, Woodlawn; Rod Sawyer, Hyde Park; Curtrice Scott, Oakland