Southwest Chicago Post Editor and Publisher
The last time a crowd of men, women and children
stood at Archer and Nashville and cheered so loudly that they caused a gaper’s block in traffic was eight months ago, after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.
The commotion happened again Tuesday evening, but the Blackhawks—more than 900 miles away in Colorado—had nothing to do with it.
Instead, the crowd in the heart of Garfield Ridge rallied in support of heroes wearing a different uniform, that of Chicago Police officers.
“These are our heroes right here,” said Garfield Ridge
Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo, gesturing to several Eighth District officers standing nearby, watching a GRNW rally of more than 60 people who braved rain and near-freezing temperatures to show support for the city’s men and women in blue.
Cacciottolo said that GRNW board members have long considered staging a public event in support of police, but were “kind of pushed over the edge” by a recent report in a daily newspaper that he said unfairly tarred and feathered Garfield Ridge as a home for police officers accused of misconduct.
“As a Garfield Ridge resident and a member of the local
business community, I continue to say that our police out here do a phenomenal job of protecting people and property,” he said. “They are fast, efficient, professional and fully deserving of our respect, admiration and gratitude.”
As Cacciottolo manned a bullhorn and led chants of “Eight is great!” and others waved homemade signs praising police, hundreds of passing motorists slowed to a crawl—many honking their horns and giving thumbs-up in support.
The rally attracted young and old, including a group of uniformed Cub Scouts from St. Symphorosa Parish.
“I’m here to show respect for our police officers, and I want to teach our kids to respect police officers from a young age,” said Scout leader Ray Kirchhardt, a Clearing resident, as he kept a watchful eye on his young charges: Liam Kirchhardt, Joaquim Flores, Sebastian Gutierrez, Alexander Norbut and Jack Jania. “We need to see more of this. The rest of the city can take lessons from what we’re doing here tonight.”
Garfield Ridge resident Chuck Dryden, known locally for rallying support for law enforcement by helping others wrap trees, light poles, railings and more with blue ribbons, said the inclement weather should not deter anyone.
“It might be raining out, but when you need the cops, they come out no matter what the weather,” he said. “They’re there for us, we’re here for them.”
Another man, who declined to give his name, said he was fed up with downtown news coverage of police and the neighborhoods where they live.
"I’ll be damned if I’m going to apologize for living in a neighborhood that is patriotic, law abiding, orderly and respectful of police officers, firefighters and others in public
safety,” he said. “No one here is blindly supporting all police, all the time. We are against misconduct as much as everyone else. But we don’t like it when City Hall or the news media or these political protesters sneer at police as a group or us as a neighborhood. That’s unfair. We won’t put up with it.”
Mary Shilney, a founding member of the Clearing Night Force neighborhood watch group, said she was out in the cold “to support our police officers, who do so much for us. Police appreciate events like this. They need that psychological support.”
Police at the scene appeared to agree.
“When I first pulled up (at about 6:30 p.m.), I said, ‘I’m sitting here all alone,’” said Officer Jane Fudacz. “But now look at all these people who came out in the cold and rain.”
Officer Liz Sullivan echoed the sentiment.
“I’m very grateful for and overwhelmed by the support,” she said.
About the GRNW
The GRNW is widely viewed as one of the most effective citizen-led crime prevention organizations in the city or suburbs
Born with assistance from the Clearing Night Force, the GRNW has helped start neighborhood watches in city neighborhoods as far away as Hegewisch and as close as West Elsdon, as well as in suburban areas like Central Stickney, Summit and Oak Lawn.
GRNW do not pursue criminals or get directly involved with crimes in progress, but they do serve as extra sets of eyes and ears for police, providing direction that has helped police solve crimes in some cases and prevent others. Their toll-free tip line played a role in the capture several years ago of a man who attempted to rob a local Walgreens at knifepoint.
The next GRNW public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 21 at a location that will be announced in the weeks ahead. Those interested in joining the group now are encouraged to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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