On June 2, organizers marched down Racine, near the old Casa Aztlan, in solidarity with the Black community | Photo by Carolina Sanchez/The TRiiBE

As protesters across Chicago organized against the murders of Black men and women at the hands of police, no one could anticipate that targeted attacks — perpetrated by Latinx gang members — would become the latest threat to Black Chicagoans. 

On the evening of June 1, residents in Chicago’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods started reporting incidents of gang-related attacks against Black people. Word spread on social media fast. Soon, audio from the police scanner surfaced as well.

“I was terrified,” says Taryn, a Black woman who was on the way to her home in Austin from picking up her cousins Monday night when they encountered a group of nearly 50 Latino men, some with weapons in hand. Taryn says she was near Cermak Road and Oak Park Avenue in Berwyn around 9:00 p.m. that day. The men noticed her car as she started backing away in the opposite direction of them, especially since she had seen Facebook videos that struck fear of the sight. (She didn’t want to use her last name due to safety).

“I was stopped by a police officer who told me I was driving illegally,” she remembers the officer saying about her trying to make a U-turn. “I let him know that I didn’t feel safe driving that way, but he kept insisting that I could continue in that direction.”

Taryn says she was hoping the police officer would follow her as she drove down the street, considering the information she told them about the Latino men with weapons. “We made it home safely, but even my neighbors were warning us about people setting traps to get people to come outside, like setting garbage cans on fire.”

But unfortunately, not everyone has been so lucky. While no exact numbers have been reported about the attacks in Chicago’s Latinx communities and the surrounding suburbs, concerns are growing among Black people who live, shop and dine in these neighborhoods. This concern reached a fever pitch in Cicero, prompting the police to declare a state of emergency and an 8:00 p.m. curfew on Tuesday.

“What we don’t need is gang members thinking that now they are the police,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with aldermen about this. These are young men that grew up in this neighborhood. The police are the public safety force in our city, not gang members.”

In a press release sent to The TRiiBE via email, aldermen from Latinx communities — Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st ward), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th ward), Felix Cardona (31th ward), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th ward) and Andre Vasques (40th ward) — called for an end of the violence directed at Black Chicagoans. 

“We denounce white supremacy, racism, economic exploitation and anti-Blackness in all its forms. We call on our communities to end the violence directed towards Black Chicagoans living and working in our majority-Latinx neighborhoods. Latinidad is a panethnic identity that must recognize and celebrate Black Latinxs and the African roots shared across our Latinx cultures. We can only dismantle white supremacy through unity and solidarity. We stand with all Chicagoans peacefully protesting for justice for George Floyd and an end to racist policing across the United States,” the email read.

Despite these efforts by city officials and law enforcement, store owners in Latinx neighborhoods took matters into their own hands. According to The TRiiBE freelance photographer Carolina Sanchez, who lives in Pilsen, neighbors and store owners gathered outside of local establishments on Tuesday with the purpose of protecting them from looters. 

“Most people were just boarding up their windows and standing outside their businesses on 18th Street,” Sanchez says. 

David Giron, 27, born and raised in Pilsen. On June 2, he helped others in the neighborhood board up their businesses and homes | Photo by Carolina Sanchez/The TRiiBE
Known by the Pilsen community as "neighborhood Ric," he stood outside of an elderly friend's building to help protect it from looters and other criminal activity. He used to work security back in the day and still has his gear | Photo by Carolina Sanchez/The TRiiBE

Leigh Kunkel, a resident of Humboldt Park, described the scene that took place around 9:00 p.m. outside of her apartment near a small strip mall.

“There was a group of about 20 to 25 men guarding a convenience store that had been boarded up after it had been looted the night before,” she says. “They were shouting at certain cars that rode past. Then, they started shooting.”

Kunkel says she thought she heard shots on and off for about an hour and half straight. 

“The police responded once, but I don’t think anyone was taken away,” she says. “There were times when cars would drive by shooting at the men outside. At one point, a car stops and the passengers get out and begin to fight the men.” 

What Kunkel describes is something different than the indiscriminate attacks on Black people in these areas. Instead, incidents like these sound more like ongoing gang conflicts between rivals in the neighborhood. 

Bianca, a Pilsen resident who asked to conceal her name, talks about a similar scene near 18th Street and Ashland that happened on Monday. 

“Me and two other women were out asking the Latino men out there to calm shit down and then a car of other Latino men came and shot at us,” she says.

The men posted on 18th Street told Bianca that they were out there to stop “looters,” but according to Bianca, they were aggressive, antagonistic and even drunk.

“They were yelling and threatening people who drove past,” Bianca says. “These men were not together with the store owners who were also outside.”

For many Black Chicagoans, the attacks by Latinx gang members aren’t new. There’s a history of anti-Blackness within the Latinx community, along with tensions between Black and Latinx gangs, which sometimes hurts innocent people without gang affiliations. In elementary school, I remember a friend, who was a Latino boy, being jumped by Black gang members because of his older cousin’s affiliation with a Latino gang. I also remember not being allowed to go to Chase Park in the Ravenswood area when I was younger after two of my friends were jumped and robbed at knife point by Latino gang members while walking from the gym at night.

“This is nothing new,” rapper/producer greenSLLIME explains. “It’s street politics shit that’s been going on for years.”

​greenSLLIME is referring to gangs attacking innocent civilians. He resides in Humboldt Park, and was one of the first people to point out the gang attacks against Black people through his Twitter page. However, the since-deleted responses he got from his tweets concerned him. There were some people justifying the actions of the Latin Kings.

“I felt like it made sense to tell people because it could potentially save some lives,” he says. “But at the same time, I’ve seen people taking advantage of this as an opportunity to say things that’s really just making it worse.”

greenSLLIME had planned to help a friend move out and into another place in Pilsen on June 2, but was worried about the dangers of the optics. 

“A couple of Black dudes loading stuff onto a truck. It’s nothing for somebody to see that and think we up to something,” he said. “Even though I’m light as hell, they can tell I’m not Mexican.”

Even with that said, he questions whether ethnicity is even enough for protection at this point, because Latinx folks are in danger too, he says.

“One thing that I had to realize was that these people that live over there are scared of the gang members too,” he explains. “It’s dangerous for them to try and stop these guys.”

For many Black and Latinx organizers, the solution is solidarity. On June 2 and June 3, demonstrations against anti-Blackness were held in Pilsen, Little Village and Cicero, with the goal of promoting unity between Black and Latinx people.

Members of ChiResists take the streets in solidarity with the Black community | Photo by Carolina Sanchez/The TRiiBE
More Black Lives Matter signs in Pilsen | Photo by Carolina Sanchez/The TRiiBE

Luis Tubens, a Pilsen resident, attended the demonstration in his neighborhood and felt that the message of Black and brown unity was present in the testimonials that were given. “It was very peaceful,” he says. “It felt like the energy from the Latinx community there was like ‘Yes! We’re grateful to be showing our support.'” 

Tubens had previously offered himself to any black people in the neighborhood who might need someone to navigate the community with. There was a turnout of a couple hundred, according to Tubens, and the protest went on without police interference or gang intimidation. “I’ve just been out here trying to show my support just like anyone else there,” he says. “I’ll be back out there today when they start protesting again.”

The way greenSLLIME sees it, the combination of powers between Black and Latinx people is necessary for the advancement of the movement for Black lives. “It’s as simple as divide and conquer,” he says. “[Cops] want us warring with each other so that we do their work for them.”