The place where teenager Laquan McDonald was murdered by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke seems desolate in the video of his death. He walks a few steps on a wide-open street with no traffic before dropping from bullets.
He laid dead in front of a bus stop and a sign heralding the construction of a new Marshalls store.
I’ve always been interested in proximity and geography— the physical reality of place. I was able to pursue this interest the most when I was at EveryBlock, where we cared about every block in every city we worked in. The idea that every block had a story, every area mattered, was at the core of EveryBlock. I still have a desire to know about blocks, especially important ones like this.
Laquan McDonald was killed in the 3900 block of South Pulaski. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Chicago Boundary Service, that is in the Archer Heights neighborhood.
A closer look of the area shows that it is full of activity. Full of old-line manufacturing and new tech companies and social services and connections to big-time philanthropy. Full of what we typically think is great about our city.
Just a block north of where this boy was killed is American Plating and Manufacturing. They make accessories for woodwind and brass instruments. That means clarinet and saxophone ligatures, lyres for marching bands, woodwind mouthpiece kits, and silver-plated brass horn mouthpieces. Think for a moment, for a company that goes back to 1902, the physical reality of the mouths and metals across the world that can be traced back to this spot. The intense intimacy of music and breath, and what was snuffed out where those workers walk to lunch.
This kid was killed a block away from Maroon Biotech, which “has developed a new category of pharmaceuticals called surfactant chaperones. This technology has the capability to restore structure and viability to cells disrupted by physical and chemical trauma. By reversing post-traumatic molecular alterations, Maroon Biotech’s technology promises to improve recovery from vehicular, military and other types of severe traumatic injuries, electrical shock and reperfusion injury. The technology has already demonstrated effectiveness at treating experimental spinal cord injury, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and brain injury.” Notwithstanding proximity to where he lay dying, Maroon Biotech had nothing for Laquan McDonald. Maroon is a color associated with the University of Chicago.
The adolescent Chicagoan was killed a block east of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which is located on a street named “Ann Lurie Place”, which I assume is named after Ann Lurie, who has been a significant benefactor for this place that provides an essential social service in this city. This is not an honorary street sign— this is a legit, green-colored city street sign.
Preferred Freezer Services is also on this block. They offer “the most modern, state-of-the-art, full service temperature-controlled warehouses in the United States”. Just like Carl Sandburg said: Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.
This 17-year old was shot dead in front of Focal Point, a bustling and busy manufacturer of light fixtures. Sometimes people play ping-pong underneath lights made by Focal Point.
Just a half-block east down 43rd lies Bagcraft Papercon. They make paper products for the restaurant industry. Their website shows so many happy people enjoying products inside their products.
We all know about the Burger King, the one where it seems police deleted footage of their crime. That’s just north of where they shot him.
Three doors down from the Burger King, not far from where puffs of smoke rose from a dead boy, is the worldwide headquarters of Kronos Central Food. They make, among other things, gyros.
Everything on earth has a place. This is our city, all of it, for all of us. These are the places near the place where police killed a boy in Chicago.