Chicagoans Mull High Court's Rejection of Gang "Loitering" Law

June 12, 1999 12:00 am

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CHICAGO, IL – In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend the law that would have unfairly swept suspected gang members out of neighborhoods and authorized police to break up groups of people “congregating for no apparent purpose,” Illinois residents say that they approve the ruling.

Bernie Meeks, a retired 65-year-old phone company worker and a community leader on Chicago’s West Side told the New York Times that he wants gangs out of his neighborhood, but understands why the court ruled as it did.

“We have to be careful that we don’t give police too much power, because I’ve seen it abused,” he told the Times. “But if we don’t use this law as a tool, how are we going to get these guys off the corner?” he added.

According to the Times, the ruling comes at a time when relations with the police are at best strained in many Chicago communities. Two recent fatal shootings by police officers have drawn protests, and many here approved of the court’s objection of the law.

Among critics of the law was the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged it on behalf of 66 defendants.

“What the Supreme Court said is really what political leaders in this city should have been saying all along: that you can’t allow the police to determine who is allowed on the street,” said Ed Yohnka, Communications Director for the ACLU of Illinois. “There are better ways to fight crime than just sweeping people off the street, and the Court affirmed that.”

Read the ACLU’s news release on the ruling at /news/1999/n061099a.html

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