Darren Bailey criticized for using South Side mass shooting as moment of 'political theater'

Republican gubernatorial nominee and recent Chicago arrival Darren Bailey traveled to the South Side Wednesday to bemoan rising crime under Democratic leadership in the wake of Chicago’s latest mass shooting, this time in the Washington Park neighborhood.

"It breaks my heart as well to see what’s happening across Chicago, and especially what happened near here last night," Bailey said during a brief news conference near the scene of a shooting that left two people dead and seven wounded Tuesday evening.

"Those affected by the senseless shootings in Washington Park, Garfield Park and the families of the more than the 500 people that have been killed in Chicago this year — I want you to know that I am fighting to end this bloodshed," Bailey said.

But dozens of residents and activists who’ve lived in the disinvested community for decades told Bailey — the downstate farmer who has taken up residence in the city’s iconic skyscraper formerly known as the Hancock Center — to take his campaign elsewhere.

"This is not a moment for political theater," the Rev. Janette Wilson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said moments after Bailey and running mate Stephanie Trussell concluded their news conference.

"We’re out here caring for our community 24/7, not just during election time," said Monique Hawkins, an anti-violence worker with the organization Acclivus. "This is everyday life for us — giving back to these people and caring and trying to bring our communities back together."


Acclivus President Levon Stone slammed Bailey for "living downtown in an ivory tower, talking to people here on the South Side.

"If you want to impress us, move into Washington Park," Stone said. "He’s a farmer — pitch a tent. Washington Park is one of the 17 most violent communities — pitch a tent, move here, live in one of these communities that are facing this level of violence."

Their comments came after Bailey and Trussell had a brief conversation with the group of activists who criticized the Xenia state senator’s appearance.

Bailey’s remarks focused on railing against "the three musketeers of crime, chaos and dysfunction," the Republican’s collective moniker for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

"Someone who loves Illinois wouldn’t try to paint a rosy picture while more than 500 people have been murdered in Chicago, mainly in these Black and minority communities," Bailey said. "Our greatest city is a crime-ridden hellhole, and you don’t care. Where are you at?"

"The vast majority of shooting victims and four out of five of the people murdered in Chicago — they’re Black. That shouldn’t be," Bailey said. "J.B. and his cohorts, Lori Lightfoot and Kim Foxx, they seem to think that all that Black suffering is just fine."

Bailey said his Democratic nemeses "care more about making life easier for criminals than their No. 1 responsibility of keeping honest residents safe." That was a reference to the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping criminal justice reform package that passed in Springfield last year aiming to eliminate inequities in the system — but that has been reviled by Republicans for its promise to eliminate cash bail.

When a resident asked Bailey for his plan to tackle the city’s gun violence crisis, the candidate responded: "Repealing the SAFE-T Act."

After a brief back-and-forth, Bailey offered to set up a meeting with Acclivus and the other activists who calmly confronted him after the news conference.

The GOP candidate was also scheduled to make a campaign stop Wednesday night at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park. The suburb borders the Far Southwest Side neighborhood of Mount Greenwood, home to many Chicago police officers and supporters of former President Donald Trump — and likely more receptive to Bailey’s law-and-order platform.

"We’re not voting for him, man," said a Washington Park resident who declined to share his name. "He’s wasting his time here."