Magnificent Mile Assaults: A Different Kind of Opening Day

It's Opening Day in America ladies and gentlemen.  It's just not quite the opening day that Chicago baseball fans look forward to every year.  In most cities, when the weather starts to get incrementally nicer after a long, miserable winter it signals a time when people come back out onto the streets and businesses start to see a jump in their revenues.  That would be particularly true in a city like Chicago and on a street like Michigan Avenue, especially that part of it known as the "Magnificent Mile."

As soon as the sun starts to emerge and the temperature clicks above 50 degrees, the locals among us who have put up with another one of Chicago's endless winters can't wait to get out and enjoy our city.  At least, we used to look forward to this annual passage from winter to "other" that we know so well.

Instead, there is a new phenomenon that seems to greet Chicagoans when the weather shifts and the sun starts shining.  We can now look forward to a different kind of "Opening Day," when gangs of teenagers coordinate on Twitter when to catch the "L" and meet on or around Michigan Avenue or the Gold Coast area.  Once they arrive, their plans apparently involve the harassment, assault, and battery of those who have dared to venture out onto the streets.

Chicago should apparently no longer be considered one of the aforementioned "most cities" as reports of Saturday's season-opening "wilding" and series of assaults along Michigan Avenue and the CTA's Red Line informed us.  According to the Tribune, Chicago Police arrested 28 people, only one of whom was an adult, albeit an "adult" of 18 years of age.  Opening day of "open season" on people who are minding their own business came early this year.  Normally a phenomenon of warm weather and the hot sun.   The mayhem season began on March 30, 2013.  One day before Major League Baseball's Opening Day of March 31.  Random, senseless assault and intimidation season has begun on Chicago's streets.

Unfortunately, more people will hear about the Houston Astros beating the Texas Rangers in the official MLB opening day game of 2013 than will know that Chicago's outdoor assault season has begun.  It was sad to hear the response I got from a suburban 19 year old who, when asked about the weekend's events and arrests said, "My friends and I never go downtown.  Why should we?  We have plenty to do here and who needs that bs?"

He's right, who needs it?  But, what will stop it?  People simply refusing to shop and dine in the areas where these annual events take place?  That's not realistic.  Chicago's mayor or police superintendent vowing to "beef up patrols" or telling us to be more vigilant when reporting crime?  Not going to happen.  Blame parents who don't control their teenagers?  Let me ask, if you are a parent of a teenager and he or she says she's going out with a group of friends to get something to eat downtown, are you going to question it?  Probably not.  And I'm willing to bet that most of the 27 teenagers arrested Saturday night did not have prior arrests.

What has always been a great American city is becoming known, like it was in the 1920's, as a crime-ridden cesspool or, as I like to call it a "stresspool."  Stressful for those of us who live and work here and a cesspool of rising crime and seemingly random mayhem.

So, what to do?  I'll tell you what I would do if confronted, like the Red Line riding 27 year old woman, with a teenager on the "L" blowing smoke and flicking ashes at me from a lit cigarette.  First, I'd do what the woman did, tell the idiot to put the cigarette out.  Then, I'd get ready to fight, because if I'm jumped as she was by ten teenagers I'm not going down without a fight.

That may not be the proper, liberal, politically correct response, but what else is there?  No CTA staff ride the trains to provide security.  Random cops walk the platforms and ride trains, but can't be everywhere.  And, unless people - normal, everyday people like you and me - resist the intimidation, this crap will keep on happening.  I'm certainly not advocating some Bernie Goetz-style vigilantism, but open season on people walking down the street or riding the "L" trains has to be addressed until hopefully the only season we are reading about is another 100-loss Cubs season.

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