Friday, July 10, 2009

White Riot: Prologue

This is going to be another two-parter—hooray!

One of the pleasures of being a Chicago resident is living in the midst of a long* and fascinating history. On my daily commute I walk by a building that used to be Essanay studios; I wait for the bus across the street from the Chicago Theatre; and the building I work in was built on the property that once housed the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s practice space. I haven’t yet seen Public Enemies, but I’d like to—in addition to the history, I’m kind of a sucker for films shot locally (ultimately that was about the only thing I liked about The Dark Knight), and it would be thrilling to see Johnny Depp strolling around the Aragon Ballroom, a venue built in 1926 where I saw my first concert.

*You know, for an American city at least.

Of course not all Chicago history is Charlie Chaplin, gangsters, and free jazz. My friend Stephen sent me this New York Times article about a reunion of police officers who were in the 1968 Democratic convention riots with a simple “really?” The Chicago Police Department has a lengthy history of abuse and an equally lengthy history of getting away with it, so I wasn’t that surprised. In fact, I was almost more dismayed by the protesters—what could they possibly hope to achieve by picketing a bunch of retired police officers eating pizza? Protesting an historical event; it sounds like a sad postmodern performance piece. Besides, at least in terms of the CPD’s behavior during the 1960s, I believe there’s a consensus that they were out of control. Partisans can argue over what happened during the riots, but I can’t see anyone claiming they “feel fine about” murdering Fred Hampton.

More to come.


  1. You saw your first concert in 1926? Was it "Ask Dad" starring Freddie Flowerdew?

  2. Actually it was Keith Richards, which still pretty much works with your joke.