CHATHAM — Chatham business owners along 79th Street say a gang war that's plaguing their community is damaging their businesses since the fatal shooting of Tyshawn Lee last week.
"There's a war raging on 79th Street over the death," said Victor Love, president of the 79th Street Business Corridor Association. Love's mother Josephine Wade owns Captain Hard Times.
The business owners spoke at a press conference held by the 79th Street Business Corridor Association at the eatery at 436 E. 79th St. Friday afternoon.
"We can't sit by and do or saying nothing," Love said. "We must fight for our businesses and communities."
After a message about gang retaliation went viral on social media, Love said that they decided to hold the press conference. He said he hopes it's a rumor, but even if it's not, the damage has been done.
"What do you think that does for my customers coming to breakfast? People are concerned about their lives and this is affecting all businesses on 79th Street."
Police denied the rumors Thursday, telling DNAinfo Chicago that the widely spread social media messages were "not credible."
Wade said previously that the community had gotten worse in part because of some newcomers who had moved to the neighborhood. The My Block, My Hood, My City group, a group that takes city youth on trips around the city, took a group there for lunch Nov. 7. Cole wanted to encourage people to support local businesses.
"My Block, My Hood, My City has been committed to promoting businesses that positively impact our communities and city," founder Jahmal Cole said in an email. "We call them 'hidden gems' and believe they should be rewarded for their contribution."
Cole said he created the Hidden Gem Awards to honor local businesses.
Lure Chaussures' Contessa Houston said that customers have stopped coming in later in the day and her friends won't visit the shoe boutique, 319 E. 79th St., anymore.
"When clients do come in, they’re always mentioning the text or that message," she said.
"They won’t stay out when sun goes down and they don't like walking around 79th Street."
She said she's been taking more precautions herself since friends have shared the warning message with her. She keeps the door locked and people use a buzzer to get in. She also parks her car directly in front of the business.
Kiera Jackson, owner of House of Merchandise, 321 E. 79th St., said that people who know anything about Tyshawn's death need to say something.
"The community needs to come together," she said. "We really need to stop this code of silence."
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said that the neighborhood isn't as dangerous as people think it is, adding that it's just the "perception."
"We want to put the call out that the neighborhood is safe," he said. "Please come out to spend money, support your local businesses. Let’s do this together, we have to fight all these issues together."
If the community isn't able to help these businesses thrive, then the area will go down, Sawyer said.
"If these businesses fail, our community goes into chaos. If it becomes abandoned, then we’re talking about real crime happening. When it’s dark and void of activity, that’s when the predators come out."