We should consider riots every weekend


June 25, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

If it were up to Monica Grayless, a schoolteacher, there would have been no mass rally in downtown Chicago to celebrate the Bulls' championship.

Instead, there would be only a candlelight vigil to mourn those who died or were injured during the post-game disturbances, and to protest the violence.

"I have been a teacher for 25 years and I'm just shocked that there is a rally," Ms. Grayless said.

"This rally is a reward for the violence. So many of these people looting were teen-agers. Having a celebration reinforces that bad behavior.

"If there is going to be any kind of ceremony, there should be a a candlelight vigil. . ."

While I respect Ms. Grayless for having so sensitive a social conscience, I don't share her distress and sorrow, and I'm not about to light any candles.

Yes, there was some looting, rioting, violence and the usual post-championship carnage. And it is possible that two or three people died as a result of it, although that isn't a certainty.

But consider the numbers.

Chicago is the heart of a metropolitan area of about 7 million


Out of that 7 million, about 700 were arrested. That's not one percent. It's not even one-tenth of one percent. It's about one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent. Or something like that.

It amounts to one person out of every 70,000 being pinched.

So for every goofball who got himself or herself or itself arrested, 69,999 didn't.

Actually, the post-victory disturbances probably reduced the normal crime rate in Chicago.

There were so many cops on duty and visible that the gangbangers, muggers, head-busters, porch-climbers and window-crawlers were unable to engage in their usual hot summer night activities.

Instead of robbing, raping and pillaging, they were diverted by the Bulls' victory and the massive show of force, and most were unable to do anything more malicious than bust a few store windows and toss objects at the cops.

Who knows how many more serious crimes were prevented by channeling these idiotic instincts into old-fashioned street disturbances?

Maybe we should have riots every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. It might be a safer city. At least we will know where the boobs are. Better that they should be leaping about in the streets than slinking down your gangway or lurking in your hallway.

Nor is there any reason for collective civic guilt, as a West Coast radio person suggested to me.

"Do Chicagoans feel embarrassment because of the disturbances?" he asked. Since we weren't on the air, I told him that was a crock of something or other, and hung up.

Why should anyone who did not commit a crime feel guilty because of what a relatively small number of morons did?

On any Monday morning, I can check out the weekend crime statistics: several murders, numerous rapes and robberies, a few hit-and-runs and the usual number of pea-brained parents dropping their kids out of a window or into a pot of soup.

Should I feel guilty? Should you? Of course not, because we don't spend our leisure time murdering, robbing, raping, drive-by shooting or treating our own kids like lab rats.

So there is no reason for anyone except the guilty to feel guilt about Sunday night's outbursts of madness.

Especially since the guilty feel no guilt. If you ask some yahoo who looted a store, took a shot at a cop, or tossed a brick or a bottle, if he regretted his behavior, he would look at you like you are a nut. Regret? To do anything less than loot or shoot or toot would not be manly. He would get sneers from his peers.

To expand on the old Western movie line -- a man's got to do what a man's got to do, even if it's really stupid.

If I have any criticism about the modern tradition of celebration by riot, it would be directed at the methods used by the police.

Their approach is to contain and limit the rioting with a huge show of force. They don't want to shoot people or crack their skulls because that would be insensitive, disrespectful and the ACLU would sue to protect the right of an individual to window shop by walking through the window.

And I agree with this approach. Killing rioters just causes hard feelings.

But I'm sure we could borrow a few helicopters from the military. And I'm also sure that there is some sort of non-lethal gas that could be sprayed on the looters from above. Something that would knock them out but do no permanent harm.

Then, when they had all swooned and collapsed, the police could move in and strip them of their earrings, watches, pinky rings, sports team jackets, Air Jordan shoes, firearms, the contents of their wallets and any other valuables in their pockets.

These assets could then be turned back to the city treasury to help cover the cost of maintaining order. Sort of an on-the-spot riot tax.

It would turn civil disorder into a virtue. Even the mischief-makers might find that they like it. Later, if they were asked to contribute to a charity, they could honestly say:

"Sorry, but I already gave at the riot."

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