Mayor defending police after Taste violence

CHICAGO Mayor Daley is defending how police handled the crowds and the violence after the Taste last week. He was out of town last Thursday and Friday when shootings happened in the Loop after The Taste of Chicago had closed. But, ABC7 is told, the mayor was in touch with police soon after the first incident when neighborhood-style violence visited tourism-dependent downtown.

"Any type of shooting is serious, not just downtown, any part of this city, any type of shooting," the mayor said.

In his first public comments on the Loop violence, the mayor conceded the Taste of Chicago and the city's fireworks display did attract a fair number of gangbangers, most of whom, he says, behaved themselves.

"Yes, we had gangbangers down there. I will be very frank," said the mayor. "They didn't do anything wrong. They came down with families and everything else. Everybody knows that. We had no problems."

Only a few of the 1 million people on the street last Thursday night, said the mayor, were involved in the gunfire at Congress and Dearborn that resulted in one death and three injuries.

"We had a number of individuals in and around the CTA, had a disagreement, they all know each other, started shooting," Mayor Daley said.

Superintendent Jody Weis, who the vacationing mayor reportedly telephoned early Friday hours after the incident, increased police presence at the Taste.

"It was interesting that he brought in more people after the incident, so it also begs the question, were there sufficient people there to begin with?" said Ald. Isaac Carothers, 29th Ward.

After the festival closed Friday night, there was another non-fatal shooting outside the Cultural Center on Randolph.

CeaseFire's Tio Hardiman agreed that downtown got a taste of Chicago's violent South and West side neighborhoods.

"If these young people don't get the help they really, really need, what's gonna happen, it's gonna spill over outside of the community, downtown Chicago, North Side of Chicago, because we all have to work together," said Hardiman.

The mayor defended police strategies at the Taste, saying there was no legal way to determine which festival-goers were armed gangbangers and which ones were not.

"You have to be cautious. You can't just send 100 policemen and grab, say, Gang X, African-Americans, or grabbing every African-American in this unit. You'd have a full-scale riot. You have to use common sense," said Mayor Daley.

ABC7 has learned that the mayor held another meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss security planning for the Taste and what could have been done to prevent the shootings.

Presumably, the official on the mayor's hot seat this time is police superintendent Weis. Keeping downtown safe is a top priority issue when you consider how much money is at stake in Chicago's tourism industry.

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