A Lot of Anguish | Letters | Chicago Reader

A Lot of Anguish 

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I take exception to the comments and the tone of the article written by Steve Thomas [Our Town, "The End of a Scene"] published in the June 9, 1995, edition.

For seven years, I fought off the city fathers and police department to maintain the freedom to congregate at the Belmont lot.

Over the last two years, the homeless kids and the punks became camouflage for professional drug dealers and gangbangers. As a result of our efforts to stop drug dealing and gangbanging in the lot, one attempt was made to burn my stores down to the ground. Two juveniles with gas cans were arrested almost in the act. This accompanied death threats against me.

The prior year, two gangbangers got into an argument about a girl and a shooting resulted on our property. I'll never forget that kid bleeding in my doorway.

When I get the chance and there are willing listeners I have explained this to some of the kids at the lot. I'm worried about their well-being and that of all my neighbors and customers.

The only time I ever ask anyone if they want to go to jail is after I have asked them three or four times in one day to leave the lot. I do not relish the game of cat and mouse. Thanks to the diligent efforts of the merchants and residents, the Belmont and Clark area has remained almost crime-free.

I have been the subject of articles numerous times in the Reader and they have always checked facts and details. What happened this time?

There are times at 1:30 AM in the morning when I am exhausted and I wonder how many more nights I am going to stand here and care more than my other neighbors and more than the city fathers. I wonder what will happen when I stop caring and find myself a spot under a tree on an island far away from Belmont and Clark. Who will care then?

Mark Thomas

Owner, The Alley

Steve Thomas replies:

I too care about the scene at Clark and Belmont. I was on the corner at 11 PM on a warm Sunday, May 14, and I asked Mark Thomas about the fence he boasted would soon be erected. I stand by every fact and quote in the article.

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