ENGLEWOOD — Lifelong Englewood resident Keith Harris knows about tragedy, having lost his only child, 29-year-old Keith Richmond, to gun violence Saturday.
So when protesters, many of whom he said were from outside Englewood, showed up in front of the Englewood (7th) District police station Tuesday night to protest police violence without informing older neighborhood activists, Harris saw it as an affront. The young group was met by older Englewood activists and residents with megaphones, who shouted at them to go home.
The clash outside the police station highlighted a generational divide between activists.
“They’re agitators,” Harris said. “Their heart might be in the right place, but they are being led down the wrong road. They need to be led in a different direction.”
The protest — organized by Black Lives Matter Chicago, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, GoodKids MadCity and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, according to flyers — started as a car caravan and ended with a rally in front of the police station. The activists were protesting after 20-year-old Latrell Allen was shot by police Sunday in Englewood.
Allen survived the shooting and is expected to recover. Police have said Allen shot at officers during a foot chase — which his family has said is untrue — and he’s been charged with attempted murder.
The issue for residents like Harris and Darryl Smith, Englewood Political Task Force president, was they said they received no communication about the planned protest.
“Y’all don’t come out when the kids get shot. Y’all come out when it has something to do with the f—ing police,” Smith said. “We out here every day watching our kids get their brains blown out, with no budget, no resources. Y’all motherf—ers getting all the resources, and you want to come over here and disrupt our neighborhood.”
With news cameras rolling, they didn’t want the protesters to be the only ones speaking for the people of Englewood. And when outside protesters get the police upset, they leave neighborhood residents to deal with angry police, Smith said.
“Y’all see the riot gear? This the s— we gotta deal when y’all leave,” he said.
One of the groups protesting, GoodKids MadCity, is composed of Englewood residents, including 18-year-old West Englewood resident Miracle Boyd, who had her teeth knocked out by a police officer at the Columbus protest in Grant Park in July.
After the protest Tuesday, GoodKids MadCity said on Twitter they left because “aggressive agitators were being disruptive & tried to provoke us into a confrontation. We live in #Englewood…”
Harris, who is 52, said their anger against the young protesters is justified. They think Englewood residents are being largely blamed for the Downtown looting that took place overnight Sunday, noting Police Supt. David Brown said the first reported incident of looting happened at 87th and the Dan Ryan, outside of Englewood.
“Why would a person from Englewood, from 63rd Street, go to 87th Street and start a caravan to go Downtown? We would just get on the expressway and go downtown?” Smith said. “We have to stop letting outsiders come into our community and antagonize our police. Now our police are bitter with us. We’re not gonna have it.”
Looking toward the younger protesters on the street, some from outside the neighborhood, Smith said: “No one there has to deal with these police after today. When they leave, the police are going to be pulling us over, the police are going to be pulling our kids out of cars for no reason because they are bitter now. You come and shut down 63rd Street, all this extra manpower, they’re mad.”
One such protester, 17-year-old Saint Gates, who said he lived on the South Side but not in Englewood, confronted the older Englewood men.
“I’m 17. You’ve been doing this for 30 years; you haven’t gotten any results. We are the youth, let us try,” Gates shouted through a megaphone.
To that, Harris told a reporter, “The wheel has been around since before I was born. We don’t reinvent the wheel. If the wheel is a circle, you don’t make it square because it might not ride the way you want it to ride. You get another tire or you improve on the tire. You don’t just dismantle it.”
Later, Gates was more contrite.
“We’re approaching it two different ways. I can respect their anger because they live here. They see it every day. The kids who died are their kids,” he said.
Another protester, 29-year-old Julio Miramontes, who is from the Southeast Side and a member of the Chicago Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, said the decision by organizers to not contact anyone in Englewood beforehand was a mistake.
“I totally understand the frustrations of someone from a neighborhood not wanting outsiders to tell them how issues should be dealt with,” Miramontes said. “I came here to support, but when I got here I found out that none of the organizers of this event had actually coordinated with anyone from the neighborhood and I think that’s wrong.”
Englewood activist Joseph Williams said even someone as respected as Jesse Jackson would have contacted someone in the community before coming to protest something.
“I respect Jesse Jackson, I love him. But at the end of the day, even Jesse Jackson would call the alderman or someone to connect with before he would come into that community,” said Williams, founder of Mr. Dad’s Fathers Club.
Perhaps nothing emphasized the generational gap more than when Gates, who is 17, asked 42-year-old Duane Kidd for what answer he had to the problems the Black community is facing.
“You want a quick, short answer to a problem that old? We’ve been oppressed since we got off ships,” Kidd responded.
Harris also took issue with what he called the “social media cancel culture activism,” saying his organization helped young people get jobs, contrasting it with recent activism that led the city to remove Christopher Columbus statues in Chicago.
“We’ve been doing this, we’ve been fighting for Black lives and against crime and violence,” Harris said. “Our organization since 2003 have put young men and women into construction jobs. We’ve changed lives…we got young men and women here who never had a job in their lives, jobs. And now they have careers and they are raising their families and setting an example for other young men and women.
“They got a statue torn down. How did that benefit anybody? What’s the benefit of that? How many people can open up a business because that statue got torn down?”
After about an hour, the younger protesters left the area, with several saying they were respecting the wishes of the Englewood residents. Some marched for a few blocks away from the station before heading to their cars and leaving.
Englewood Police. Cmdr. Larry Snelling, who walked between the groups and at times helped to cool tempers on both sides, said the confrontation could be a positive.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s an education for both sides,” Snelling said. “I think these people need to see the people that actually live in this neighborhood and what they deal with on a daily basis. These people walk in here spewing things based on misinformation and limited information.”