“These recent times have brought out and shown two viruses: COVID-19 and racism,” Robbins Mayor Tyrone Ward said at a June 5 press conference held at the CalComm 911 Dispatch Center and hosted by Calumet Park.
Southland mayors gathered to speak about George Floyd’s recent death at the hands of Minneapolis police and offer prayers and condolences for his family. In addition, they called for regional unity and support for their police departments from state and county officials.
That support was simply not there on May 31, a day that Calumet Park Mayor Ronald Denson described as the worst in his eight years on the job. It was the day after peaceful protests devolved into riots, looting, arson and anarchy in Chicago, where the Illinois National Guard and Illinois State Police were called in to assist.
South suburban mayors also called-in for assistance when the looting and violence spilled over into their communities. But it didn’t come, and their police departments were nearly overwhelmed.
CalComm Dispatch alone received more than 2,000 9-1-1 calls – three times the usual number, Mayor Denson said. He recalled what Dispatch Manager Sue Stacey told him: In her more than 30 years of dispatching, she had never experienced anything like May 31. The hardest thing was when she would receive a call from an officer asking for backup and knowing that there was no one available. The only thing she could do was to pray for their safety, she said.
The center dispatches for Calumet Park, Markham, Midlothian, Posen, Robbins and Sauk Village.
“When I heard about the assistance [to police] that was provided to other communities, I felt abandoned; our police were on their own,” Mayor Denson said.”There has to be a better plan for the Southland.”
“We stood by as our cities got demolished and our people lived in fear,” added Harvey Mayor Christopher Clark. “When we needed help and they sent help to Chicago or the North Side, I asked the question: ‘What about us?'” It’s the same as the protestors demanding racial equity, so are we, he said.
“We commend peaceful protest,” said Mayor Ward, who is the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association president as well as president of the Southland Regional Black Mayoral Caucus. “However, a small segment of negative opportunists brought unwarranted vandalism/looting to many of our Southland towns. When they bring destruction to one of our towns with little or no police agency support, we all feel it.”
“We’re still moving forward,” said Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Jr. “We want to support local businesses and support each other. And we demand support from the state and the county for all of our suburban communities, not just Chicago.”
“Give us what we need for our communities,” added Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa.
The press conference was attended by mayors, trustees and other representatives from Burnham, Calumet Park, Country Club Hills, Dolton, Dixmoor, Ford Heights, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Markham, Phoenix, Richton Park, Robbins and University Park.