Gang power in Chicago politics and Illinois prisons... Marching, prayers and tears won't identify Chicago's drug gang murder problems and therefore won't solve them... Whether evasions of corruption, ignoring the PEOPLE and the FOLKs leads to the same results!

Anyone who wants to make the effort can easily learn more than enough information about the PEOPLE and FOLKS, the two enormous gang "nations" that have controlled most activities on the city's streets since the late 1960s and early 1970s. While both Nations are led by Black and Latino gang members (some in prison; some outside), they are non discriminatory: Once white supremacist gangs like the Simon City Royals and the Gaylords have long been integrated into the leadership and street level membership of their respective gang Nations (the SCRs into the FOLKS, the Gaylords into PEOPLE). The surrender of Illinois government of the control of the state's prisons -- partly based on the politics of austerity for the past quarter century -- has resulted in the gangs, not the guards, actually controlling the prisons. Or, as Avon Barksdale put it in a (fictional) drug gang story (The Wire) "In here I'm what you might call an authority figure." Unlike some East Cost and West Coast drug gangs, however, the massive Illinois gangs and gang Nations have kept away from the temptation to "Go Hollywood" and make sure that their tentacles, which reach deeply into Chicago and Illinois politics, are generally disguised from most citizens, often with the help of preachers who preach away from the reality they know and reporters who long ago gave up trying to report the facts from Chicago's streets.Anyone who worked directly against Chicago's sophisticated, well-organized, and very profitable drug gangs (as I did, see my biography at the end of this article) knows that certain types of marches, prayer meetings, and emotional appeals won't solve Chicago's drug gang problems -- let alone Chicago's increase in gang murders.

Anyone who can spell PEOPLE or FOLKS knows that I am talking about. For generations (at least four at this point) Chicago's Black and Latino drug gangs have been divided into two enormous gang "nations" -- the PEOPLE and the FOLKS. Investigators can find that PEOPLE gangs control areas where the dominant graffiti features the five-pointed star. FOLKS favor the six-pointed star. The origins of these symbols now go back to the 1960s, but their power continues and grows because it has long been rooted in Chicago's political economy. The two major sources of these powers are in the Illinois prisons and in Chicago's City Council (and elsewhere at City Hall).


By the late 1960s, when the Blackstone Rangers and Woodlawn Disciples were first organizing, the Chicago media had long been reporting on the city's main "gang" -- the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra). Just about everyone who read the papers knew that Fred Roti, Alderman of the First Ward (which in those days included the Loop, Chinatown, and Little Italy) was mobbed up. Also, most who paid attention knew that the "Mob" had ties all the way to the mayor's office and into the highest ranks of the Chicago Police Department. But in those days, "Gang" in Chicago meant the (mostly) Italian Mafia that had descended from Al Capone.

First Ward Alderman Fred Roti (above at a meeting of the Chicago City Council) was widely known as a "make member" of the Chicago area Mafia. Media reporting on gangs as late as the 1970s and early 1980s focused on the Mafia in Chicago and the suburbs, while the city's Black and Latino gangs were gaining power both on the streets and in the jails and prisons. By the end of the 20th Century, the powerful gangs comprising the PEOPLE and FOLKS in Chicago joked that the Mafia was a bunch of tired old white men. But whereas the Mafia's power was limited to a couple of wards (centered in Roti's power in the First Ward, which then included Chicago's Loop), by the early 21st Century the power of the city's newer gangs had spread so significance in as many as half of the city's wards. Aldermen and their staffs helped ensure that the drug gangs of Chicago were protected from major scrutiny by law enforcement, while the media and the "public" was diverted by publicity stunts from preachers and professors. And so it continued, for decades, that gang press coverage focused on the Mafia, long after the First Ward migrated away from the Loop and Little Italy and the main gangs in Chicago were African American, Mexican American (and Mexican) and Puerto Rican. And so it has been since. While Fred Roti (whose connections to "Bruno the Bomber" were well documented) is long gone, there is still a lingering Hollywood version of Chicago's gangs and gangsters, leading the Al Capone myth to linger over the city like a bad perogi or pasta salad.

But by the early 1970s, the city's Black and Latino drug gangs had become the major gang problem facing Chicago. And that problem wasn't a simplistic narrative (such as the one promulgated by Rahm Emanuel and most official spokesmen) that the problem is "guns," or "violence," or some kind of strange "epidemic of violence" that can only be solved by a (highly subsidized) program of "public health" work.

By the 1970s, the two major gang nations had fused. The descendants of the Blackstone Rangers had become the leading gang of the "People" (five-pointed star) "Nation" and the descendants of the Woodlawn Disciples had become the leading gang in the "Folks" gang Nation.

And since those two alliances were established in Chicago, they have slowly expanded, thanks to the way in which public education and public safety cutbacks have been organized, across the state, based in the jails and prisons. In 2017, as it was in 2007, 1997, and 1987, anyone who is in the know (including most police) can tell you which tiers at Cook County Jail are run by which gang nation and who runs which location in each of the state's many many prisons -- from minimum to maximum security.

[By the time, in 2001, that he was asked by then Chicago Teachers Union President Debbie Lynch to serve as the union's first (and to this date only) Director of Gang Security and Safety, George N. Schmidt had been active in the city's schools against the gangs for nearly 30 years. When he began his teaching career at DuSable and Forrestville upper grade centers in 1969 - 1971, Schmidt documented the large scale activities of the Disciples and Black Stones gangs. These activities often resulted in massive gang fights under the windows of those two schools (now both no longer in existence), with the police (then, almost all white) ignoring the fighting until it had ended. During subsequent years working in more than a dozen Chicago high schools, Schmidt continued to utilize the powers of the Chicago Teachers Union against the gangs within the schools where he worked, and often served as CTU delegate. By the time he became delegate at Bowen High School in 1993, he was also asked to served as "Gang Security Coordinator" and helped the community's leaders and schools defy the gangs and control them within the school. After he was professionally attacked, terminated, and blacklisted by Paul G. Vallas (and the Chicago Board of Education) in 2001, he was asked to work as "Director of Gang Security and Safety" by then-CTU President Deborah Lynch. When Lynch lost the union leadership to Marilyn Stewart in 2004, Schmidt was fired, and the security and safety position eventually reduced from dealing directly with gangs to chasing unsafe conditions like moldy walls instead. Although the CTU in 2017 has a committee supposedly dealing with security and safety, the union continues to evade its responsibility to note, confront and then eliminate the massive influence of drug gangs within Chicago's public schools -- both real public schools and charter schools.]


January 3, 2017 at 7:23 PM

By: John Kugler

Chicago Murder Media Blackout

the Chicago murder rate is the highest in 19 years and murder rate soared 72% in 2016; shootings up more than 88% (that is using the 762 murder stat) there are stats from more reliable sources that in 2016 murders are actually 795 and most likely will be over 800 when some of the people that were shot in 2016 die of their injuries. The true stats will be available at the end of January or mid February.

Karen was right a few years ago, Rahm is the Murder Mayor.

Dr. Kugler

January 4, 2017 at 9:10 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Teaching in the combat zone and remaining humane

The important thing to note in any discussion of the up tic in the murder rate is the vastly uneven nature of it within the City and the link to inner gang/ drug crew warfare. In two Chicago neighborhoods, Burnside and Fuller Park, the homicide rate eclipsed 100 per 100,000 residents when the statistics were finalized, an important point that John makes. Those numbers were more than five times the Chicago average.

The data has made this obvious for many years, so for example the National Institute of Justice sponsored a very detailed analysis in 2008 titled DETERMINANTS OF CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD HOMICIDE TRENDS: 1980-2000. The study used what were called a concentrated disadvantage index, a Family disruption index, and an immigrant concentration index. Using very jargonistic language the report concludes: "Overall, the group-based trajectory analysis shows that higher and increasing levels of concentrated disadvantage are predictive of being in trajectory groups with higher and increasing homicide rates regardless of whether initial rates of homicide are low, moderate, or high in 1980. Whereas social disorganization is not predictive of homicide trajectory group assignment in any of the group comparisons, family disruption and immigrant concentration provide additional explanatory strength, but only for neighborhoods with very high initial levels of homicide."

In short the technical research shows what teachers in the neighborhoods who have taught at the same schools for years have known for years. Historically crime ridden communities in Chicago got worse and unless there was massive gentrification there were really no changes in the trajectory of violence in those communities. The truth is that Father Pfleger can lead endless peace marches in communities, support mentoring programs for young men, and nothing will likely improve. The flow and rate of murders in specific communities will exhaust it self periodically by the blood baths due to a decline in alienated youth still alive. Some of these same youths can put on charter school uniforms and be called "scholars" and still end up as youth hit men.

To say that poor communities themselves are afraid of other families children are in some cases not a overstatement of the situation in the least. Teachers in these communities who work there for multiple years try to save those children who likely can be saved and many become exhausted and depressed by there own evolutions effectively acting as part of a process that seems to select children for survival and leave teaching. Many teachers quietly advise families of kids with potential to get the hell out of those communities, as do I with families that have children with mental health issues, learning disabilities, and numerous other disabilities. But it is not so easy to do if you are living for free in your grandparents home with limited income. Massive investment for human services and full wrap around supports in these high murder communities is not going to happen under the Trump/Rauner/Emanuel regime that rules currently. That is the unfortunate reality of the situation.

Teachers (including those in charter schools), police, and a wide variety of human services providers in these communities need to be supported to be as humane as possible in the impossible situation they find themselves in. Probably they need to be treated as if they too suffer from PTSD. It's not just the police in these communities who can become killers out of fear of losing control and for their own lives, it's the total situation in these communities.

January 5, 2017 at 5:53 AM

By: George Schmidt

Teachers with PTSD in 'combat zones'...

PTSD among teachers? Certainly! When kids are murdered (or local murders affect schools and families) it's the teachers who are the first line of defense to try and comfort the kids -- from the littlest ones to the guys bigger than most adults. The Crying Game is something they don't teach you about at the Ivy League universities that concoct the latest "studies" to justify more professorial patronage. And there is yet to be a serious movie or program that deals honestly with these challenges because, as I'm reporting, there is too much money to be made by corrupt politicians, corrupt preachers, and corrupt professors under today's realities.

Among the many important points added to my first article on Chicago's gang murders by Rod (and others, off line) is that there are "murder zones" in Chicago. At the same time, there are other locations in Chicago where murder is as rare as in many suburbs. My estimate of the number of serious "gang schools" (elementary and high schools) in CPS when I was Director of Gang Security and Safety for the CTU a dozen years ago is that there are about 100 schools deserving of that designation.

Murder schools. It's that simple. In those schools (Bowen High School, especially 1997 - 1998 when I was "security coordinator", had seven students (and recent former students murdered during one -- ONE, we need to shout it out -- school year. Every Monday we had to arrive at school early to find out if we needed to prepare for "Dead kid day" (i.e., a day following a murder over the weekend of one of ours). That reality required local preparation, using all of our local resources, since we knew all the kids and were able to provide a place (some of us called it the "Crying Room") for those who needed to mourn or scream out their anger.

In those days, the schools still had social workers, psychologists, and more counselors than today. All of those things have been ripped away by the orgy of privatization and market genocides that were beginning then (under Paul Vallas) and which have escalated to obscenity under Rahm Emanuel (independent of Bruce Rauner, note).

All of the publicity stunts were counterproductive or worse. Vallas's Preacher Patronage Crew (a bunch of preachers who were supposedly available for bad days like those) were viewed -- by most of the students and those on the staff -- as enemies of what we needed to do. Once they were chased out of the school because their prayer circles were so irrelevant to the realities we were facing.

The only thing that's changed since those days -- now 20 years ago -- is that the hypocrisy has grown. That's the "public health issue" -- NOT the gang murders. Those who are preaching (safely from their university perches) for professors and preacher patronage based on stemming this supposed "epidemic" are part of the problem, not part of the solution. But the preacher and professor patronages are profitable, just as the drug economy is to the gangs leaders and to the politicians and entrepreneurs who support it all.

Yes, finally, teachers eventually suffer from PTSD. I knew one teacher who was trying to hunker down and "just teach" (a common response from young professionals in their early years) who collapsed after a student was shot dead outside the window of her classroom (she was on the first floor, each side of the Bowen Annex) late one school day. She made it back to "work" for a few days and was never seen again. There was no program for her, and like many care givers, she was in that horrifying position of having to comfort the "kids" while having no one to turn to herself. She wasn't the only one: just the one who comes to mind this morning.

January 5, 2017 at 9:46 AM

By: Al Korach

Should we share some of the blame?l

When I started teaching elementary school in 1952 the rooms all had 6 rows of combinations of desk seats in rows of 8 students to a row. The desks were screwed into the floor and the students were screwed into their assigned seats. There was order-and the teacher knew where everyone was or should be at. Even the janitors that had to cleanup the room were satisfied with this orderly arrangement. Now along come the "experts, behaviorists" and other so called experts. They felt that children should not be assigned to a permanent position but should have movable seats and desks. Room order soon became disorder. Of course this is an over simplification of where we are today but it was a start of where we are today. Where are we ? We are in Murder Capitol USA. Most new teachers are lucky to last 5 years the others are just waiting to retire. We have allowed control of our schools to be taken over by so called experts and worst of all politicians. I have oversimplified one possible start of the situation and George Schmidt has commented on some of the end results. Please no more so called pension holidays. At 87 years of age my primary goal in life is to be 88.

January 5, 2017 at 11:46 AM

By: bob busch


42 years of teaching in South side High Schools x I forget how many of my kids got murdered, or murdered some one else = I don't know.For several years i have been a sub in the high school where I went.A huge physical plant with over 4,000 students.But as soon as I enter the school I'm right back home at Simeon.This school is real,the staff super,but the kids are the real reason the place is so successful,and their parents.each classroom is fully wired,and nobody even cares how many copies you make on the numerous $100,000 xerox machines laying around.Ron and George you should both try doing this.But be careful some teachers have asked me why my eyes are always moving, and what am I listening for? Thank god they will never know.

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