Anti-capitalist protesters in Chicago last Friday - Photo Lee Stranahan | Breitbart News
By John F. Di Leo -
Black Friday has long been known as the biggest shopping day in America. It gets its name from the fact that this is the magical day on which retail sales are so huge, even retailers who are having bad years tend to finally reach profitable status when the dust settles on the end of this Day-After-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy.
The 2015 Black Friday, however, will also be remembered, by hundreds of thousands of people, as the year in which their trip to downtown Chicago was interrupted by obnoxious protesters. The demonstrations on Friday, November 27, 2015 were so overwhelming that Michigan Avenue was impassible for hours, keeping shoppers from their destinations in stores, restaurants, transportation, and entertainment venues.
Now, an important thing to note is that the demonstrators are happy with this.
They got exactly what they wanted in the short term: massive attention, massive news coverage. People undeserving of fame on any other basis – people who don’t write successful books or invent successful products or start successful businesses – are nevertheless able to get national news coverage for themselves by rioting in a city street. And yes, they’re proud of this accomplishment.
But is it in fact anything for any decent person to be proud of? What will be the long term result of this day of mob rule?
First, we must mention the catalyst, the purported reason for this demonstration. Laquan McDonald was a drug-addled criminal, who had been reported breaking into multiple automobiles on a low-grade crime spree in 2014. During an altercation with the pursuing police, which involved his erratic behavior (toxicology results confirmed the policemen’s suspicion that he was flying high on PCP at the time), Officer Jason Van Dyke fired multiple shots, killing the miscreant. The City of Chicago covered up the story for over a year, as well as they could, desperately hoping to avoid a Ferguson-style reaction. When the news of this apparent overreaction by Officer Van Dyke finally got out, the Chicago press and the black community (yes, the drug-addled car-breaker was African-American) erupted in predictable fury.
This case certainly merits analysis from a criminal justice standpoint. Until Officer Van Dyke’s trial – he has been charged with murder – we won’t know whether he was in fact justified in his response or not. All we have is a brief video that certainly makes Officer Van Dyke look guilty… but as is usual in such cases, we don’t know what happened immediately beforehand; we lack the context, and we lack peripheral vision.
What does it say about our cities that they are producing drug addicts, car-breakers, violent youths marauding in their streets? What does it say about our cities that people must fear driving through ever-larger areas due to such risk of violence and destruction (there is a reason why auto insurance costs so much more to city residents than to suburbanites, after all)? What does it say about our cities that a policeman has seen enough such criminals that he would even consider shooting as his first response?
There have been numerous incidents in recent years in which police were unfairly vilified for normal police work – for simply doing their jobs in a bad neighborhood. This does not appear to be one of those times; it certainly looks – admittedly before all the evidence is in – like the policeman was largely or maybe even completely in the wrong, and the suspect only deserved a few years behind bars, not the loss of his life. But under our system, it is too soon for the public to judge.
That being said, however, there is indeed much more that we should consider about this story:
The protesters had a lot of choices to make, in deciding what to do about this tragic occurrence. They could have demonstrated outside City Hall or Police Headquarters on a normal weekday, with a calm, normal hour of picketing… on a normal day when downtown Chicago is full of aldermen, businessmen, civic leaders, political reporters, and other decision-makers.
They didn’t do that.
They could have organized a sign and leaflet campaign warning young people to stay away from drugs; had he been sober, he wouldn’t have been killed.
They didn’t do that either.
They could have organized a “Make Chicago Safe” campaign, with people visiting schools and playgrounds, and running PSAs on the radio, exhorting Chicago’s youth to stop robbing cars (and homes and stores too, for that matter). Had Laquan McDonald not been engaged in a car-breaking spree, he wouldn’t have been killed.
But they didn’t do that either.
In fact, the demonstrators intentionally picked Black Friday for the day of their demonstration – a day when the city’s decision-makers and civic leaders weren’t downtown at all. On the day after Thanksgiving, the only people in downtown Chicago are visitors doing their Christmas shopping, or the retail employees serving them.
Why did the protesters make this choice? Why did they choose a time and place that would have the least likelihood of direct impact to decision-makers, and the most likelihood of massive impact to non-decision-makers? If their beef is with the police and the city council, why disrupt shoppers on the Magnificent Mile, shoppers who mostly live in the suburbs or even in other states?
They made this choice, on purpose, and it is this choice that tells us everything we need to know about them.
Back to Black Friday. What exactly do people do on Black Friday? They come to town, to shop. To look for deals. To get a start (or even a finish!) to their Christmas shopping. This employs both big chain stores and little independent shops. It employs the store managers and the cashiers, and also the manufacturers and transportation companies who deliver the goods they sell. Oh, and the makers of gift boxes and gift bags and ribbons and wrapping paper and Scotch tape too. Black Friday employs a lot of people in these stores.
And by keeping these stores busy, they produce property taxes and sales taxes to the city and state… and their employees earn a salary, which means they also produce income taxes and payroll taxes, and they too pay sales taxes when they spend those earnings. Black Friday is very good for the people of Chicago, especially for the people who depend on tax dollars for their livelihood.
But people don’t just shop on Black Friday. People also go to restaurants and diners, for lunch or dinner or dessert or all three. People make a day of it; they don’t just shop until they drop.
Dieters splurge on a big meal, the thrifty splurge on an expensive meal, the bland-eaters splurge on an exotic meal. It’s an event, a special occasion, one that many of these shoppers look forward to every year as a delightful tradition. This employs the chefs and sous chefs and busboys, the waiters and waitresses, the launderers that clean the tablecloths and linen napkins, the produce and meat vendors who supply the ingredients. Black Friday is very good for the restaurant industry, and by extension, it’s very good for the people of Chicago, especially for the people who depend on tax dollars from all those lunches and dinners and desserts for their livelihood.
And people don’t just shop and eat on Black Friday. People go to the Big City to be entertained, as well. They visit the theater, for an afternoon matinee or an evening play. They watch professional actors perform in A Christmas Carol or other holiday plays and musical extravaganzas.
This symbiotic relationship between shopping and dining and entertainment is key to making Chicago a travel destination. And as such, it brings in work for the hotels and motels, the taxicabs and the travel agencies, and the airlines that keep O’Hare and Midway such busy places. All these different things work together… all these very different professions and activities combine to make Chicago a popular travel destination, not just on Black Friday, but all year round. All these enterprises employ people… people who pay taxes, the very taxes that the demonstrators demand be spent on their myriad causes.
And what does a demonstration like Fridays’ do to this wonderfully symbiotic relationship? What is the result, when thousands of protesters clog up the main thoroughfare for hours on the biggest shopping day of the year? What happens when parents can’t get across the street to their kids’ favorite store or their own favorite restaurant?
They don’t accomplish as much on that trip as they would have, for a start. They visit a third fewer stores than they’d planned, or they only have one meal that day instead of two. They’ll leave town with a couple hundred dollars more in their pockets than they’d planned, because they just couldn’t do everything they’d wanted to that day; they couldn’t hit every store they’d planned, due to the inconvenience caused by the mob.
That’s a couple hundred dollars each, or more – maybe much more – from thousands, or tens of thousands of shoppers, that will be spent somewhere else instead of Chicago this month. The disruption caused by these rocket scientists has cost the city millions and millions of dollars, just by driving people away who had come specifically to spend money in their city.
Wonder if these rocket scientists are proud of that accomplishment, now that they’ve had a chance to think about it?
But besides the cost in today’s tax revenues, remember, this day is the make-or-break day for many a business, particularly the shops that pay the exorbitant rents, insurance rates, and property taxes of downtown Chicago. Some fail every year, no matter what. More will fail this year, because of this disruption, which caused some of these stores, through no fault of their own, to lose out on ten, twenty, maybe even thirty percent of the sales they would have made on Friday. That means storefronts empty, businesses no longer paying taxes, cashiers jobless. All thanks to the political decision of these protesters.
And what of the long term result? How many of the same people come back to Chicago, year after year, for a day of shopping? And how many of these will change that tradition as a result of Friday’s mob scene?
Instead of bringing home memories of a great dinner and a stirring performances of A Christmas Carol, tens of thousands of people returned home that weekend with a memory of a screaming mob, blocking the road, blocking access to shops and restaurants. Instead of a day of fun, it was a day of inconvenience, delays, worries, fears. Will these people be back? Or will they learn their lesson, and never again be foolish enough to return to such an unwelcoming, unpredictable city?
The demonstrations were supposed to be about a single criminal, shot to death by an overzealous police officer. The Leftist agitators who organized this mob action set out to make a point about police brutality, and to vilify a city power structure that lacks openness and honesty in dealing with such matters. Very true.
But what was the real result? The death of the suspect is buried amid the news of economic damage, as storekeepers lost out on sales, restauranteurs lost out on tables, hoteliers lost out on tourists… not just today, but long term. Many of these shoppers will simply never return. The economic hit isn’t measurable; we can’t interview every annoyed tourist who will choose a different town next year. But we know it will happen. We know that thousands will instead stay in Grand Rapids or Indianapolis or Lexington or Milwaukee…. Or travel to some other distant state, more welcoming, less risky, in future years.
The demonstrators want so many things… they want (or say they want) sensitivity training for police, and job opportunities for their youth, and better education in their schools, and safer streets to live in. All understandable goals; all worthy and sensible, on their face.
But these things they want all cost money, and a government can only get money by taxing people’s income, and property, and transactions. Every tourist you drive away, every date you associate with danger, every cashier you render jobless, every shop you drive out of business… all these things diminish the tax dollars available to Chicago for these very programs that these economically-clueless demonstrators claim to champion.
Remember the demographics: Chicago is a dying city. From a population maximum of 3.5 million in the 1950s, it has plummeted by more than 2/7ths in the past two generations, to just 2.5 million today, and is still falling. When your population is smaller and poorer, you just can’t expect that population to be able to fund the costly programs of a world-class city.
Every year that Chicago becomes a less desirable city for commerce, it becomes harder and harder for Chicago to provide the services that the people of Chicago want to receive. Ironic, isn’t it, that the very people most responsible for shutting off the funding supply are the very people who clamor to be its recipients?
There are solutions to the problems of our big cities. Some are easy; some are difficult. But the city has to be willing to choose them; the city must embrace economic growth and fight the crime that corrodes its heart. The city has to stop digging itself an ever deeper hole.
When the activists of Chicago agitate and agitate to “get stuff,” without thinking of the collateral damage that their action will cause, they may not get the richer, happier, more generous city that they expect to “get.”
Those of us who study history know what you get when you drive away your businesses, your tourists, your jobs, your producers.
You get Detroit.
Copyright 2015 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based trade compliance manager and writer. His columns are found in Illinois Review.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook or LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.