Chicago saw its deadliest Memorial Day weekend in years this weekend, even though a coronavirus-related lockdown is still in effect and will continue to be in effect until the end of May.
Gun violence typically ticks up in the city as the weather warms up, and Memorial Day weekend is often the start of a brutal and violent summer, tinged with gang violence on Chicago’s south and west sides. This year has been no exception; according to public television station WTTW, homicides and gun violence are on the upswing in the city, even though most of the city’s recreational activities are shut down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and the city’s residents are under a strict stay-at-home order.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend saw 9 people killed and 27 more injured in a rash of gun violence.
“Memorial Day weekend has seen at least 36 people shot so far across Chicago, nine of them fatally,” the Sun-Times reported early Monday. “The weekend’s death toll has already surpassed last Memorial Day weekend, during which seven people were killed and 34 others were injured.”
The dead include a 16-year-old named Darnell Fisher, who was shot in the chest and arm while outside Saturday night.
The city, which recently got a new chief of police, says its prepared to take on what is likely to be a violent summer, and “multiple city agencies Friday announced the opening of a ‘Summer Operations Center’ in an effort to curb violence ahead of the holiday weekend.”
So far, though, despite their efforts, Chicago has seen the most people shot and killed on Memorial Day weekend since the same weekend in 2016, which set a record for violence with nearly 70 people shot, per the Chicago Tribune.
The weekend’s incidents are enough to leave Chicago’s violence prevention advocates concerned that the city is actually dealing with twin pandemics: one of COVID-19 and one of gun violence.
“It’s like a double whammy. We are catching it double. We have the virus and the violence to worry about,” one outreach worker told TIME Magazine. “It’s just an uphill battle.”
City lockdown orders have done little to curb the violence. In fact, TIME reports, while overall crime has ticked down during the coronavirus pandemic, gun violence has actually ticked up in recent weeks, besting even last year’s non-lockdown numbers.
“In the week before the stay-at-home order was announced, 25 shootings were recorded in Chicago,” the magazine said in late April. “In the first week since, there were 41 shootings; in the second week, there were 40. (In 2019, the same period — March 30 to April 5 — saw 28 shootings.)”
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot cautioned on Friday that if conditions in Chicago do not improve, the lockdown will continue past May 28, the deadline given by Illinois’ Democrat governor J.B. Pritzker for the state to move into “Phase 3,” where most restaurants and retail outlets can resume service.