Chicagoans must be feeling a strong sense of déjà vu after witnessing their newly-elected mayor’s response to a chaotic and crime-filled weekend. When a social media event called “Teen Takeover” quickly turned into a riot, resulting in 15 arrests, two people shot, property damage, and further strain on the city’s police resources, many expected a firm response from Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson. However, his statement left citizens questioning whether anything had truly changed.
While Johnson, a Democrat, condemned the destructive activity in the Loop and lakefront area, he also said, “it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.” This attempt to rationalize the rioters’ actions seems all too familiar to the citizens of Chicago, who recently voted out former Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot, known for her soft-on-crime approach, saw her city compared to Afghan combat zones during her tenure. Despite Chicago being a stronghold for the Democratic Party, Lightfoot was unable to secure re-election in a special February election, with frustrated citizens publicly telling her to “get the hell out.”
Replacing Lightfoot was supposed to be an opportunity for Chicago to change course and tackle its growing crime problem. Major companies have been leaving the city due to safety concerns, highlighting the urgency of addressing the issue. However, Johnson’s early response to the weekend’s chaos indicates that his stance on crime may not differ significantly from his predecessor’s.
By sympathizing with the rioters in his statement, Johnson may have unwittingly reinforced the impression that Chicago is stuck in a never-ending cycle of lawlessness and ineffective leadership. As the city continues to grapple with crime, it remains to be seen whether the new mayor will be able to bring about the much-needed change that Chicagoans so desperately seek.