The Secrets of Chicago Gang History

The Secrets of Chicago Gang History

fox weekend violence
Photo courtesy of foxnews.com

It has to be said. This has to be addressed. I know you’ve heard the news stories this week and read the headlines about Chicago’s deadliest weekend in murders and shootings. Well as always there’s his story, her story and the Chi By Design story. Let me first tell you as a resident of Chicago for 24 out of the 28 years of my life I do not now nor have I ever walked through my neighborhood in fear. I do not have the impending dread that as I open my car door to drop my daughter off at daycare that I will be riddled by bullets. Please. Drop the paranoia. Let the sensationalism go and we can begin to have a real conversation, a dialogue of sorts about the situation facing my city. It’s not JUST the thugs. It’s not JUST the CPD. It’s not JUST the politics and politricks or the failing public education system. Its not JUST the lack of community and family involvement. It is definitely NOT the millions of gun laws and gun bans and increased fines for citizens carrying guns. There is a combination of human fallacy on every end of the spectrum that has brought us to today. This post will unfold several times over the next few weeks. I mean seriously, how can you address a problem whose solutions are so deep and multi-faceted, in one article or blog post? News sources that blasts headlines like, Chicago the New Murder Capitol; and then spend four paragraphs addressing and solving the issue as if it were as simple as saying, please don’t shoot, it hurts, is irresponsible.

The most common cure I hear for curbing the gun violence in Chicago is to create tougher gun laws. Ha! Let me laugh one more time, Ha! Ooh wait as a matter of fact let me get my 7 chuckles in like Katt Williams says. In the first post of this series we will explore the history of Chicago in terms of organized crimes and gangs and Chicago law enforcement. The history of gangs and organized crimes in Chicago have an origination date almost as old as the city. Chicago became incorporated on March 4, 1837 and according to an 1855 Chicago Tribune news article the entire city of Chicago was lifted between 4-14 feet to make way for a new citywide sewage system to combat the mud and water effects of being built right next to Lake Michigan. Not only did this process raise the standards of living for Chicagoan’s it opened the door for the illegal underworld of prostitution, gambling money laundering alcohol and later drug sales. If you’ve ever driven down Lower Wacker Drive, before the renovations, you got to see first hand the underground entrances and exists of mob bosses like Alphonse “Scarface” Capone and Giacomo “Big Jim” Colosimo.

Night view of a north bound entrance down to Lower Wacker Drive. Photo courtesy of www.autonueroticfixation.com
Night view of a north bound entrance down to Lower Wacker Drive. Photo courtesy of http://www.autonueroticfixation.com
An underground entrance and exit below Michigan Avenue. Photo courtesy of www.autonueroticfixation.com.
An underground entrance and exit below Michigan Avenue. Photo courtesy of http://www.autonueroticfixation.com.

 

This photo is before the 2 year multi-million dollar renovation to Lower Wacker. In the crevices, where the bridge met the concrete, housed many of Chicago's homeless population. I remember very vividly as a child being amazed by the make shift shelters of sheets and personal possessions set up right up under Michigan Avenue where people were easily spending tens of thousands of dollars on one nights entertainment. Photo courtesy of www.autonueroticfixation.com.
This photo is before the 2 year multi-million dollar renovation to Lower Wacker. In the crevices, where the bridge met the concrete, housed many of Chicago’s homeless population. I remember very vividly as a child being amazed by the make shift shelters of sheets and personal possessions set up right up under Michigan Avenue where people were easily spending tens of thousands of dollars on one nights entertainment. Photo courtesy of http://www.autonueroticfixation.com.

It is said that there are hundreds of covert underground rooms and sewage systems that connect all over the city that were used to house brothels and during prohibition used to smuggle hooch throughout the city. In 1919, the first year of prohibition, Chicago laid its groundwork to become what has been touted today as the murder capital of the US.

Famously known as “The Beer Wars”, Chicago’s biggest gangs divided up the city into territories and began an all out war against each other. The Torrio Mob controlled the South and South-West sides of the city. The mob included 8 different and independent gangs under their flag. Vying for the south side territories were also the South Side O’Donnel Brothers, the Saltis McErlane mob and the Ralph Sheldon gang. With the Sicilians out vying the Irish for power in the black market, the Irish transitioned to politics and began a very profitable relationship. The Race Riots of 1919 began after an African-American boy was drowned in Lake Michigan after accidentally crossing the barrier for the blacks only section at the beach and police refused to charge the white man several eye witnesses identified as the murderer. This week of non stop fighting and all out war between black and white gangs on the city’s south side sparked the beginning of what will soon become the rise of the political black gangs for safety and protection of the black citizen.

 

Front page of the August 2, 1919 Chicago Defender. Photo courtesy of cameronmcwherter.com
Front page of the August 2, 1919 Chicago Defender. Photo courtesy of cameronmcwherter.com

During the next 30 years the Italian Outfit moved its underhanded dealings from the streets to the political arena. Employing hundreds of former mobsters and murders as police officers and higher up city officials in the Aldermanic, Mayoral and Gubernatorial offices through the Democratic Machine, nicknamed in Chicago, The Machine. By the 1960’s black gangs began to form in political response to the gang and mob mentality of the government, committeemen and elected officials. The Vice Lord gang was created in St. Charles Juvenile Correction Center by young men from the North Lawndale neighborhood. Upon their release they went back to the west side neighborhood and recruited hundreds of black youth into their gang. Originally the Vice Lords were bad news for the community and brought much terror to the residents. In the mid 1960’s several of the Vice Lord groups met and decided that they no longer wanted to be associated with being a street gang and the new Conservative Vice Lords were about economic empowerment of their community. Bobby Gore, spokesman of the new CVL, along with David Dawley, the first White Vice Lord, proposed grants and received government funding to open Teen Town, two Tastee Freeze parlors, a slew of after school programs and GED training courses along with other educational programs. around the same time on the south side of the city, present day Englewood, a young man by the name of  Larry Hoover was kicked out of school and joined the Supreme Gangsters and quickly rose as the leader. During its early stages the Supreme Gangsters were terrors to their communities introducing prostitution and gambling into the neighborhoods; sounds a lot like the Irish and Sicilian mobs of the early 1920’s. As with the Vice Lord Nation on the west side, during the mid 1960’s the Black Gangster Disciples turned courses and began to open gas stations, fund community programs, restaurants and even served as truancy officers to enforce black students to attend school. Prevalent in Chicago as well was the Black Panther Party who set up a free lunch program to feed THOUSANDS of hungry children before school and during the summer months.

Photos inside of a cafeteria of the BPP feeding school children with their free lunch food program. Photo courtesy of rortybomb.wordpress.com.
Photos inside of a cafeteria of the BPP feeding school children with their free lunch food program. Photo courtesy of rortybomb.wordpress.com.

Black gangs were uniting and developing a social consciousness and a political awareness that had not been seen since the Great Black Migration from the south right after WW1. Unfortunately the gangs in political office did not like the unification of black citizens in Chicago. The 40-50,000 gang members politically unified scared the living shits out of Mayor Richard J. Daley and here lies the birth of the War on Gangs. On May 9, 1969 State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, in a press conference, announced the official Daley administration’s War on Gangs. This war created a task force to spy on and break down the black political gangs from an internal prospective. During the mid 1970’s you see a decline in the economic, political and social state of the black community infiltrated by the, totally surprise and random introduction, of crack cocaine into the community. The once strong male leaders of the gangs and therefore the community were reduced to zombied out shells of their former selves. With the wrongful conviction of Bobby Moore and the retirement of several other prominent leaders, the black gangs were being dragged back in to the underworld of crime. The Chicago Police had more support now than ever to establish discord and abuse in the black neighborhoods under the guise of the ‘War on Gangs’, sound a little like Bush’s War on Terror? The introduction of crack, the rampant ruling of the Machine and the continuous downfall of our educational system pretty much brings us up to date on gang life and history in Chicago.

Please remember that all discussions in this series are related to the cause and cure of the “gun violence” in Chicago. You’ll never know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re coming from, If you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it and all of those other sayings describe why its important to look at today in the context of yesterday. I’ m tired, this is tiring. Research for this post made mad and sad at the same time but it was necessary. Please share your thoughts below. We have a long way to go. Check back in the next few days for the next installment of this series on Gun Violence in Chicago. Until next time- RD

 

 

 

 

 

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