Thread: Donald Trump has been repeatedly invoking Chicago gangs as a dog whistle whenever anyone brings up police violence or criminal justice reforms. I recently wrote about this but here's a thread on the origin story of Chicago's gangs.
[T]hey steal, they are cruel and bloody, full of revenge, and delighting in deadly execution, licentious, swearers and blasphemers, common ravishers of women, and murderers of children.”
That racist quote is from Edmund Spencer.
"These immigrants are not merely ignorant and poor—which might be their misfortune rather than their fault—but they are drunken, dirty, indolent, and riotous, so as to be the objects of dislike and fear to all in whose neighbourhood they congregate in large numbers."
No, they weren't talking about black people or Mexicans, they were talking about the Irish.
Although the myth that the Irish were slaves is DEFINITELY NOT TRUE, they were once despised in America until they "became white"
How did they do that?
Well, have you ever been to the St. Patrick's Day parade and wondered why there were so many police officers and firemen participating? Well, the Irish became white by coalescing their political power through these kinds of jobs.
After the great Chicago Fire in 1871, the city hired hundreds of foreign-born cops and firefighters, by 1880, 30 percent of Chicago's civil service was Irish.
They also formed “social athletic clubs” that coalesced their voting power and controlled large areas of the city.
By the 1900s, the social athletic clubs ran the city and the state's Democratic Party.
These "clubs" were really gangs.
The 2 most famous were the Hamburgs and Ragen's Colts. The Colts split in the 1920s. Half became enforcers for a famous Chicago businessman:
The other half formed a new athletic organization and joined a group that would eventually be called the National Football League.
But in the early 1900s, the Colts were still running Chicago's political scene alongside the Colts.
Then black people started moving to Chicago
Most history books call this "The First Great Migration" but basically, a lot of black folks in the South moved north after WWI to get jobs and escape the rampant racism in the South.
Mostly the racism part.
(I don't know if you've heard, but that Jim Crow fella was kinda bad.)
Anyway, when black folks started moving to Chicago, the Irish were mad AF because the blacks were taking all the jobs. (sound familiar?)
*I call them "the blacks" because you know that's the nicest version of what the Irish were calling them back then.
There was no official segregation in Chicago, but the Irish gangs drew an imaginary line through the entire city and would attack any black person who crossed this line.
This was a problem because all of the good jobs, including working at the stockyards, were on the white side.
In 1918, the Hamburgs, Ragen’s Colts and other athletic clubs bombed 25 black homes that were “encroaching” on Irish territory.
There was another problem. These new black Chicagoans liked to vote.
Remember, back then, most blacks voted Republican, which threatened the Irish Democratic control on the city.
On Apr. 5, 1919 William Hale Thompson defeated William Dever (the Hamburgs and the Colts’ Democratic mayoral nominee) by 21,000 votes, partly because of black voters.
That summer, the Colts and the Hamburgs went CRAZY. They attacked black stockyard workers and anyone who crossed this imaginary line.
But these weren't no ordinary negroes. These were WWI veterans who called themselves "New Negroes" and were demanding their rights.
Across the country, blacks were being attacked but they were like: "That's all you week motherfuckers got?"
Think about it: It's hard to scare someone whose parents were enslaved and had lived through reconstruction.
Plus, they were from Mississippi, SC, Ala. and across the South—where the REAL white people were from.
Compared to racism in Mississippi, racism in that weak-ass Chicago Irish racism prolly tasted like baby food—unseasoned and easy to swallow.
So when a rash of lynchings broke out across the country in 1919, black folks weren't having that shit. That's why the "Red Hot Summer of 1919" is called "race riots," even though wypipo started that shit.
On June 27, 1919, 17-year-old Eugene Williams was relaxing in Lake Michigan when his raft drifted past the imaginary border. A group of white men started throwing rocks, which caused Williams to drown, sparking black protests across the city.
During the ensuing protests, the Hamburgs opened fire on a group of black men returning home from work at the stockyards who happened to cross this imaginary boundary.
The Hamburg's got their asses whipped.
Later that night, Ragen’s Colts donned blackface and bombed the homes of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants. Remember, these social clubs were also embedded in the police force. Irish officers told the immigrants:
"I'm so sorry, you know it was the negroes* that bombed y'all."
*Y'all know they didn't say negroes
Joseph McDonough, a member of the Hamburgs, an alderman, and one of the most powerful politicians in the city held a meeting with all of the city's white leadership and said this:
"I know the Negroes have enough ammunition stored in their homes to carry on guerrilla warfare for a year. Unless something is done at once I am going to advise my people to arm themselves for self-protection."
And THAT'S how you start a motherfucking race riot.
After an investigation the Chicago Commission on Races report said:
"Responsibility for many attacks was definitely placed by many witnesses upon the ‘athletic clubs,’ including Ragen’s Colts, the Hamburgers, Aylwards, Our Flag, the Standard, the Sparklers, and several others"
After this, black neighborhood youth started forming groups to protect themselves and never let it happen again.
The Irish athletic clubs did the same thing. But because they controlled the political machinery, they did it in a different way.
Remember, Illinois wasn't a Jim Crow State.
But in In 1927, the Chicago Real Estate Board made it illegal for whites to sell property to non-whites. Then they created the Chicago Housing Authority and began razing neighborhoods to build low-cost housing for whites.
The CHA used federal funds that banned blacks from buying property in white neighborhoods financing homes in black neighborhoods. They eventually came up with a shorter name for the policy based on the colors of its segregation maps.
They called it “redlining.”
By 1940, Chicago’s black residents were barred from owning property in three-fourths of the city. Anywhere black peole were spotted, they were attacked.
Activist gangs like the 14th Street Clovers and the Imperial Champlains formed to protect black homeowners from being harassed out of West Side neighborhoods by Jewish and Eastern European immigrants. The 2nd Great Migration produced another influx of blacks beginning in 1940.
So where did the black people go?
Well CHA had a brilliant plan:
In 1941, the Chicago Housing Authority opened the Ida B. Wells Homes. At the time literally described it as “a ghetto.” The next year, the city opened the Cabrini Homes. In 1962, Green Homes would open next door.
Well, they didn't call it a "plan." They called this caging of Chicago's black population: "the projects"
They were built, in large part, because of Richard J. Daley, who took control of the Cook County Democratic Party in 1953 and was elected mayor of Chicago in 1955.
He remains the longest-serving mayor in Chicago history and the head of the most powerful political family in Illinois’ 200-year-history.
Called “slums on top of slums” by Daley, the concentrated poverty helped the loose confederation of protective crews merge and evolve
These early versions of street gangs that began to fight and protect their turf just like the athletic associations did. During the 50s and 60s, these gangs began to move out of the projects.
Then they had to fight with the Italian gangs.
Now these black gangs were a lot like the Hamburgs and the Colts. They even got into politics and started legitimate community organizations.
In 1967, the Blackstone Rangers started a grassroots voting organization and got a $1 million dollar grant to teach job skills
The Conservative Vice Lords got $250,000 from Rockefeller Foundation. Martin Luther King Jr. moved to Chicago for his 1966 Chicago Freedom campaign where he marched with Black Stone Rangers and lived among the Vice Lords in Lawndale.
King writes about this in his autobiography
MLK even met with Daley in a summit to try to get him to desegregate the city. Daley even signed a historic agreement to build housing and fight police brutality.
As soon as King left Chicago, Daley mocked King and tore up the agreement.
Vice Lords, the Black Stone Rangers and the Disciples formed a coalition called “LSD” in the 1960s. They began financing candidates for office and forcing construction sites to shut down if developers didn’t hire black workers.
Black Panther leader Fred Hampton even organized meetings with neighborhood gang leaders to form a united political and economic front.
Of course, there was still violence but the goals were the same as the white groups:
Keep black neighborhoods from being destroyed by whites.
You know this scared white folks.
Then something terrible happened:
A white supremacist killed Martin Luther King Jr.
During the resulting riots, Daley ADMITTED that he ordered police to “shoot to kill, maim or cripple”
After King’s death, Daley declared a “War on Gangs”
By the fall of 1969, the leader of every major black gang in Chicago would be imprisoned on trumped-up murder charges.
That's not my opinion. That's a FACT.
A jury eventually Vice Lord spokesman Alphonso Alford innocent.
A judge threw the murder case for Black Stone Rangers' spokesman Leonard Sengali out.
Bobby Gore, of the Conservative Vice Lords, was convicted after cops arrested, beat or killed every witness that provided him with an alibi.
The police didn’t even attempt to arrest Fred Hampton.
Richard Daley’s officers just murdered him in his sleep.
He was 21.
But while these leaders who wanted to turn their gangs into community organizations were imprisoned, the Chicago gang scene exploded.
I know you're thinking: What the fuck does this have to do with the 1919 Race riots?
What the fuck does this have to do with the projects? What does MLK have to do with this? What does Fred Hampton have to do with this? What does the old-school racist Democrats have to do with this?
Well, let me tell you a story.
On the night of the race riots, there was a guy who was the member of the Hamburgs. This guy's lifelong mentor was McDonough, that same politician who told the white people to grab their guns.
The year after that Race commission report came out, they made this guy, McDonough's mentee, the president of the Hamburgs because they wanted to reform the Hamburgs' image and this guy had a good reputation and a promising political future.
Now, there is no evidence that this guy was involved in the riots, but it is almost impossible to think that he wasn't. By every historical account, he spent ALL his spare time at the Hamburgs headquarters. He was a faithful member of that "athletic club" until the day he died
This guy's name was Richard J. Daley.
Yes, one of the most powerful men in Illinois’ political history was devoted to the organization that incited the 1919 riots,
That created the need for black gangs,
That enforced segregation and fueled poverty in Chicago for over a century.
You can never tell me SHIT about black violence and gangs in Chicago.
But, here's the last story:
I started researching this story about six months ago. That's when I met this guy named John Hagedorn. This guy has written tons of books on Chicago gangs.
He is a Ph.D. and taught criminology at the University of Illinois Chicago. He's retired now but you can buy his books on Amazon.
One day, I was on the phone with him, and he said that when he was a young professor, he interviewed a Chicago police commander
Now, this commander was about to retire and he had served his entire career in Chicago. If you're wondering, yes, he was Irish.
Dr. Hagedorn said that he was interviewing the police commander about a totally different topic,
but Hagedorn said he happened to mention to the retiring Commander that he studied gangs.
"Oh, I was in a gang when I was young," said the Commander. The cop said he now considers a gang to b black or Latino men, but acknowledged that he was in what could be considered a gang.
Hagedorn says that he told the police officer that he was interested in what happens to gang members as they age.
"So," said Hagedorn. "What happened to your buddies?"
The commander paused and stared off into space as if he was trying to recall. Then he said:
"Well, most of them became police officers."
You can follow @michaelharriot.
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