Chicago neighborhood awash in blue

By Cloee Cooper

Chicago became a centerpiece of the national Black Lives Matter movement after widespread resistance erupted following the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in the fall of 2014. Since then, tensions between the police and Chicago residents have continued, drawing distinct lines throughout the city. One Chicago neighborhood takes a visible stand on the side of the police.

Close to Midway International Airport, Garfield Ridge is a neighborhood comprising a high percentage of police officers, firefighters and medical service providers. The median household income in Garfield Ridge is $67,576, compared to the Chicago median income of $50,702. The streets, homes and small shops are lined with blue ribbons and flags with a blue line through it, representing support for police. The idea was born in 2014, after NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot in Brooklyn, New York, and the flag represents “Blue Lives Matter.” The pro-police movement in the United States was formed in response to Black Lives Matter.

An ordinance is also associated with the flag. Known as the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, the ordinance would make attacks on police officers, firefighters, and medical workers a “hate crime”.  Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who presides over the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, introduced the ordinance in the summer of 2016, after a similar bill was approved in New Orleans earlier last year.

The ordinance sparked protests in Chicago, with Black Lives Matter activists gathering outside of Burke’s office to express their concern in August. The ordinance is yet to be approved by the Chicago city council.

Lifetime resident of Garfield Ridge and chef, John Sakellaris, explained the significance of Garfield Ridge’s “total support of the police”. He said it is one of the last neighborhoods in Chicago to unequivocally stand with the police.

Photo illustration at top: Blue Lives Matter flag blows in the wind at a residence in Garfield Park on Feb. 2, 2017. (Cloee Cooper/MEDILL)