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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday June 20th 2024

Three Days of Respite at Chicago and Lake

Something I Said

Three Days of Respite at Chicago and Lake

By DWIGHT HOBBES

Minnesota’s third annual Black Entrepreneur State Fair thankfully accomplished what the Minneapolis Police Department increasingly fails to do, safeguard the public from rampant drug dealing along with related violence and prostitution. To be sure, there’s no telling whether this was the aim. It may have simply been that the South Minneapolis locale, Chicago Ave and Lake Street, is about the most heavily trafficked intersection in town. Easily accessible by both mass transit and a main drag that amounts to a super highway with connecting streets instead of off rampants. A perfect place for the upwards of 50 vendors to make a killing, especially in this dead economy nobody wants to come right out and call another depression. For the sake of argument let’s say it killed the proverbial two birds with one stone.

For three days, the Chicago-Lake hub was fenced off to buses, pedestrians and a dangerously abysmal affront to civilized life where lawlessness otherwise went unchecked. Call the MPD to complain and you’ll join the many citizens who’re told it’s a problem for the Metro Transit Police. Call Transit and you get the story in reverse. Instead of both combining to jointly come down on criminal activity, it’s basically a hands-off situation and don’t the bad guys and gals just love that. Soon as the fair closed, it was business as usual at the open air market for crack and the latest illicit enterprise, fentanyl, which outstripped 2021 overdose deaths from methamphetamine (450) and cocaine (151), overall totaling 1,286.

So much for the bad news. Accentuating the positive, whole area completely changed to a family friendly environment. Not nearly ritzy as the Minnesota State Fair, but, nonetheless, a welcome breath of fresh air for the community – black, Mexican, Asian, you name it. Kids romping in the sun, delightedly noisy, running around all over the place with their parents not having to worry about them getting hit by a stray bullet, abducted, accosted or anything else more harmful than, say, a scraped knee. For that matter, grownups enjoyed their own fun. Hanging out with friends and family without having to look over their shoulders for trouble out of nowhere. It was a return to fondly remembered days of yesteryear when criminals confined themselves to making life hell for one another, not innocent children and law abiding bystanders. Point in case, for all that blatant heroin pushers like Harlem’s Bumpy Johnson and successor Frank Lucas were as far from role models as north is from south, they got rich selling poison, sure, but gave enough of a damn about the community to, for instance, do Turkey Day giveaways from the back of a great big truck. And even the roughest, toughest hoodlum looked for neighborhood children and actually stepped aside on the sidewalk for little old ladies with a “How you doin’, today, Miss Johnson.” That is unthinkable, today. Dealers and dopers will hurt or kill someone, in the drug thing or not, as soon as look at them. Chalking it up to collateral damage.

So, no, the Black Entrepreneur State Fair didn’t change the world – not forever, anyway. But, it was a damned good start.

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