UPTOWN — An Uptown man has been charged with assaulting Ald. James Cappleman (46th) after the alderman tried to break up a group of people drinking on the corner of Racine and Leland avenues, according to authorities.
Tony Landers, 58, was charged with one misdemeanor count of aggravated assault after he allegedly struck Cappleman with a piece of a table during the Saturday night altercation, Chicago Police said.
Around 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Cappleman went out to the 4700 block of North Racine Avenue after a constituent contacted him to complain of public drinking and loitering at the intersection. Cappleman told one man that he could not drink on the sidewalk and then removed a table that was used to conceal alcoholic beverages, he said.
When he turned the corner with the table, Cappleman saw a group of about eight people chasing him, the alderman told Block Club. A confrontation over the table ensued, and Landers allegedly hit Cappleman with the table and placed the elected official in a chokehold.
Landers was arrested on the scene and Cappleman declined medical treatment for his “very minor” injuries, he said in a note to constituents.
Cappleman said he has known Landers for about five years, and has offered the man help with addiction and housing services. Landers has been arrested at least 17 times since 2014, Chicago Police records show.
Saturday’s incident was the third time Cappleman has been attacked by constituents since he was elected in 2011.
In May 2012, Uptown woman Kang Young was charged with battery for shoving Cappleman after he swept up the breadcrumbs she had spread for pigeons, police said.
In August 2012, Cappleman said he was pushed into some bushes by a woman who had been arrested nearly 400 times in her lifetime. The woman, Shermain Miles, was charged for assault in the incident and served nearly a year in prison.
In a note to constituents following Saturday’s incident, Cappleman said he will look to be “more careful while I work.”
Some constituents have critiqued Cappleman’s decision to intervene in issues of public nuisance. ONE Northside, an Uptown-based advocacy group, said the alderman’s tactics serve to “criminalize individuals versus tackling systemic issues.”
“It’s a sad day when an Alderperson can go around bullying a resident, take his property and then that person ends up in jail for defending his property,” Lamont Burnett, ONE Northside board member, said in a statement. “His insistence that his job is to police the actions of his neighbors is terrifying and inappropriate.”
Cappleman said he does so because the law enforcement and social services systems don’t adequately address issues of mental health and addiction, which is at the heart of problems like public loitering and nuisance.
“It’s not like I’m going out there and confronting eight people,” Cappleman said. “They confronted me. You can’t leave abandoned tables and furniture on the sidewalk.”
Such work is complicated in Uptown by the amount of people struggling with homelessness and mental health issues, he said. Cappleman said he is trying to balance the needs of constituents who are concerned about public drunkenness while also seeking to find a solution other than arrest and incarceration.
“There are people caught up in the system. I’m working to … try to change that approach,” Cappleman said. “In the meantime, I have residents who are frightened.”
The 46th Ward will coordinate a meeting of landlords in the area of Leland and Racine avenues to develop an “action plan” to tackle issues of drinking and public loitering, Cappleman said.
Landers is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 20. Cappleman said he is not interested in seeing his attacker face jail time and would rather see a program to help people frequently caught up in the criminal justice system.
With the city’s budgeting season underway, Cappleman said he will push the city to adopt a program that offers services to people with addictions or mental health challenges after they’re released from jail or the emergency room so that they are not just put back on the street.
“I don’t care if it’s a felony [charge], misdemeanor or no arrest,” Cappleman said. “I want him in a program that gets him help. It’s the most cost-effective way to do it for our city.”
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