Chanting "Fight the Power" and "Racism Must Go," 1,000 protesters marched Saturday through Mayor Richard M. Daley's neighborhood, Bridgeport, to dramatize alleged police brutality and racism.
The march, organized in response to several recent incidents involving the police, snaked through two predominantly white communities, Bridgeport and Canaryville, before ending near Comiskey Park, the spot where two black 14-year-old boys were picked up by police last August. The police allegedly abused them before dropping them off in Canaryville, where they were chased and beaten by a gang of whites.
"We're marching to show these young people that this is an open city," said Lewis Myers, one of the organizers. "There is no place in the city of Chicago where people should be barred or intimidated from going."
The marchers were flanked by an estimated 100 police officers and the march was peaceful. Some of the whites who lined the street shouted profanities or racial slurs and were led away by police, but their words were mostly drowned out by the chants and songs of the marchers.
A number of the whites who stood on street corners or sat on their stoops watching the marchers said the beating of the two black youths was not racial and that blacks should picket the police instead of the white neighborhood.
"That was a punk incident; it wasn't a racist incident," said Diane Bronzell, an insurance agent who maintained that Bridgeport and Canaryville are not racist communities.
She blamed the police for starting the incident by abandoning the youths in Canaryville instead of taking them home.
The two boys, Joseph Weaver and Calvin McLin, were picked up in Bridgeport for a curfew violation Aug. 15 after a White Sox baseball game. Usual police procedure is to take home youths picked up for violating curfew. The two officers in the incident, along with a number of whites who allegedly beat the boys, have been indicted.
Bridgeport, a predominantly Irish neighborhood that has been home to most of Chicago's mayors during this century, has long been accused of hostility toward blacks and was the scene of a number of violent racial incidents and demonstrations in the 1960s, during the Administration of Richard J. Daley, the current mayor's father.
Mayor Daley, when questioned last week about the planned march, played it down. "When I was a kid, they marched all over my house," he said. "I grew up with it."
When the marchers entered Bridgeport on Saturday, they were met by a small group of whites who carried the Irish flag and chanted "White Power."
"This ain't racist," one of the whites said of the incident involving the two boys. "These people are making it racist." He said the protesters were marching through Bridgeport because they were upset that Chicago had elected a white mayor last spring after six years under black administrations.
"We're the minority," shouted the man, who said his name was Clarence Charles Peterson. "Blacks, Hispanics . . . they get jobs before we do, and we have to go begging. And I was born in this country."
At a rally before the start of the march, Jesse Jackson Jr., son of the civil rights activist, told the demonstrators: "We have zero tolerance for police brutality. We are not here to increase racial tensions. We're here today to declare Chicago a free and open city."