Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The Rev. Jesse Jackson: Working for Himself

A stampede early Monday morning at the E2 nightclub killed 21
people and injured at least 50 others, a tragedy that touched all
of Chicago and the country.

Apparently a fight broke out on one of the dance floors, and
security used pepper spray to break it up. When the crowd saw the
spray, it panicked and fled to the exits, only to find them locked.
The crowd was so large that people were climbing on top of each
other and those on the bottom were crushed.

Within hours of the incident, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was on the
scene defending the club owners. Yes, I said the club owners
— one the son of one of Chicago’s most prominent black
families and the other an entrepreneur who served prison time for
voluntary manslaughter.


While I have frequently disagreed with both his approach and
message, no doubt he has had some success helping

This is why the tragedy this past week in Chicago is so
troubling. Twenty-one people died — most, if not all, of them
were black. Over 50 people were injured and again, most, if not
all, of those injured were black.

If the owner of this club were a white man, Mr. Jackson would be
on a tirade, calling for him to be jailed and held responsible for
this tragedy. The owner is not white though, and in fact, it has
been revealed that the owner is a longtime family friend of Mr.
Jackson’s. Thus Mr. Jackson has decided what is best for him
is to protect the club owners, even if that means he has to abandon
every principle he has claimed to stand up for in the past.

This was not the club’s first problem with overcrowding,
nor is it the first time Mr. Jackson has tried to help the owners.
In fact, the club had been ordered by the city to shut down because
of suspected drug dealing and unruly behavior, as well as a result
of shootings that had taken place outside of the club.

Just weeks before this incident, community activist Derrick
Mosley wrote a letter to the owners of the club, letting them know
he had received several complaints about crowd size and the safety
of the club.

Jackson and others had previously gone to the police department,
requesting security for the club, but were denied because the
police department does not provide private security.

The second floor was ordered closed seven months prior to this
tragedy because of numerous and extensive fire code and safety
violations — the owners ignored this order. On subsequent
visits, the building inspectors found the violations had not been

The police superintendent also estimates that the department had
responded to 80 calls at or near the club in the past three years.
The restaurant on the first floor was even ticketed once for
ignoring a five-day shutdown order.

Mr. Jackson claims that it was the city’s fault and the
police department’s fault for not being more proactive in
making sure the owners followed the court order.

What? Is it the city’s fault because they didn’t
make sure the club owners followed a direct order from the

Mayor Richard M. Daley responding to Mr. Jackson’s claim
that the owners are not culpable:

“When a court issues an order against you, it is your
responsibility to follow that order. You don’t have the right
to disobey that order until someone catches you or until a disaster
happens, as it did Monday morning.”

Mr. Daley is right, and Mr. Jackson knows this is true. Mr.
Jackson is trying to exploit his power and fame to save the butt of
a friend who was intent on breaking the law for profit and whose
unsafe establishment cost at least 21 people their lives.

This is not the work a civil rights leader should be doing, but
then again, Mr. Jackson has chosen his personal interests over
principle for years now. Why should we be surprised by his latest

Matt Modell ([email protected]) is
a senior majoring in journalism and political science.

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