Police brutality. This isn’t exactly a happy issue, and right now it’s ripping the city of Chicago apart. In the past few weeks there have been reports of police gunning down unarmed civilians. A young activist told me three people were murdered in the last three weeks. You’d have to be living in a bunker not to have heard about two of the fatal shootings, both of which occurred during traffic stops. People have been protesting, marching, and even boycotting. When I went downtown to yo-yo today, a group of radicals was boycotting the Taste of Chicago, a huge food festival downtown that draws nearly four million people. They were handing out flyers and urging others to do the same.
I admire their guts. These people are certainly taking a stand on an issue that’s important to them. However, I don’t think boycotting a major festival is going to work. They don’t expect it to work either, they just want to open people’s eyes to the issue. But I think an issue like this is a real catch-22. Being a police officer has to be one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. You are expected to be perfect. Nobody likes it when you walk up to chat. You also have to make split second decisions. Some decisions that haven’t been made too wisely recently. I do feel that the police need to be given some slack. They have a hard job to do. But I also think that some police officers need to be policed themselves. There’s a difference between making a split second decision, and making a split second deadly shot. Was it really necessary to use deadly force against these two unarmed motorists? So you thought they had a gun, you thought your life was in jeopardy. So the answer is to kill them? Something doesn’t sound right.
Today while yo-yoing the police harassed me. What I do is street performing, which requires a permit. A permit I obtained from City Hall. Secondly, I was yo-yoing at the Taste of Chicago today, and I stopped and asked if I needed special permission before I started performing. I waited ten minutes while the information guy checked with his superiors. Nope, I didn’t need any special anything. Just have my permit, and I’m all set. That was my understanding. So this cop walks by while I’m yo-yoing, and says, “Move along kid, no begging here. You wanna get arrested?” I showed the cop my permit, which was in plain view. He still didn’t believe me, and I explained that I had checked with the proper authorities, and had every right to be here. Now a trio of cops was discussing the matter, and the eldest told me he’d check into it and I just might have to move. With that, they left, and I went back to yo-yoing. Now immediately to my left was another street performer making balloon animals. Immediately to my right was another street performer juggling and making music. The cops didn’t talk to either of these performers. Luckily, the police officers never came back and asked me to leave. But quite frankly, this experience leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth. For one, the officer didn’t know the rules about street performing. Secondly, he singled me out. Maybe he just didn’t like yo-yo’s. Maybe he didn’t like young, punk college kids. Or maybe he didn’t like my music. I don’t know. But he was rude, wrong, and not exactly the friendly police officer I’d expect.
So what’s my point? I don’t know, it’s been a long day. I think the police in Chicago could certainly use a lesson in civility. A little less rudeness and a little less deadly force would probably do the city as a whole lot of good. And of course, not all cops are like this. Shortly after the trio of officers tried to shut my little yo-yo operation down, another cop watched me yo-yo for several minutes, and talked to me about yo-yo’s for a while. He never tried to arrest me.