GARFIELD PARK – Saying they’re not a good look for the community, a West Side alderman is ordering the removal of makeshift memorials from East Garfield Park.
City sanitation workers have been making a special effort recently to take down the public “shrines” typically erected in honor of those who have been killed. The sanitation workers last month began clearing out five of the shrines around East Garfield at the request of local residents and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
The makeshift memorials sometimes include at least one feature – a ring of empty liquor bottles.
“It is not a good look for the community,” Ervin said. “Memorializing someone with a bottle of Patron is not the best way to honor them.”
The bottles appear not only just after someone has been killed but also on the anniversary of some people’s deaths, said Sgt. Davina Ward, who runs the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program for the East Garfield Park area. The so-called shrines go up at or near the location where the shooting occurred and almost always appear in “public spaces.”
“It looks like trash and it is on city property. They always put them on city property,” said Ward, who addressed the issue at a neighborhood CAPS meeting last month. According to area pastor, Rev. Edwin Perry, the shrines are not just used to honor people who have been killed but also to mark drug territory.
Perry, who also works with the area CAPS program, insists people can spot the drug locales because of the shrines – even if the police have temporarily chased the dealers from a particular corner. The pastor said those shrines indicate that the drug dealers are likely to return to that location.
When Perry recently removed one near his own house, he said he smashed the Patron bottles before putting them into the garbage. Otherwise, he said, young men would probably have fished the bottles out of the can and put them back up.
“They came up to me while I was busting the bottles and asked me what I was doing. I told them I was getting rid of the bottles,” Perry said, adding if the city and residents continue taking them down, they will eventually stop appearing.
“They’ll have to stop. I mean, you just can’t drink that much Patron. It gets expensive.”
After the sanitation workers come through and take down the shrines, the memorials are likely to reappear, Ervin said, so it is important for the cleanup to be repetitive and ongoing. The alderman plans to have the sanitation workers out in the neighborhood again.
“These are memorials to the past and we are moving forward to a brightly lit future,” Ervin said.