Last week, a YouTube video of a mob brawl and stabbing went viral, creating widespread outrage and ubiquitous headlines.
Over the July 4 weekend, a midnight street brawl among a dozen or so young people hospitalized a 25-year-old man and fed fear and outrage among community residents and business owners. It was the third violent attack in the area in recent weeks, according to news reports.
It’s been a long time coming. For years, the neighborhood has been plagued by security concerns, racial antipathies, transgender intolerance, economic divides, business consequences, political gamesmanship and dysfunctional behaviors.
In Chicago, street crime is a growing and complex phenomenon. In Boystown, it is overlaid by a clarion call for diversity, personified by the Center on Halsted. When the nationally recognized LGBT oasis opened in 2007, the community came.
Those LGBT youths who came farthest — from the city’s South and West sides — had nowhere else to go, being pariahs in their own homes. Insidious and rampant homophobia in African-American communities sent them scrambling for the “safe” confines of Boystown. The Center offered an exhaustive and alluring smorgasbord of services. And an open door.
They came in droves and rainbow colors, looking for excitement, adventure, acceptance. Some — gay and straight — were looking for trouble.