Teams of unarmed security guards and people trained in martial arts rode CTA Red Line trains for hours Friday as part of an attempt to combat a string of violent attacks on trains and platforms over the past several months.
Community activist Tio Hardiman, who is leading the charge, says his volunteers don't have weapons, but most are veterans and equipped with martial arts skills.
They also have been trained to act as “violence interrupters” to deescalate situations and curb violence.
"We are not the police, we are not vigilantes, we don’t plan to hurt anybody," he said.
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One by one, the "violence interrupters" boarded a Red Line train on the city's South Side and introduced themselves to riders.
“We are not against the police, but by the time somebody calls the police a crime has already been committed," Hardiman stated.
Earlier this month, CTA said it added more security guards at stations following an uptick in violent attacks on platforms and trains.
A Chicago Police spokesman urged CTA riders —would-be security volunteers or otherwise —not to step in as vigilantes and instead call 911 if they witness a crime or something suspicious.
“The police do not need private citizens taking law enforcement matters into their own hands,” CPD spokesperson Tom Ahern said.
A CTA spokesperson referred questions to the police department.
Hardiman says he has called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department to collaborate with volunteer patrols and work with him to identify train lines and problem time periods to continue the eight-hour shifts on an ongoing basis.
Critics contend the group's impact will be limited, considering there are already unarmed officers riding the rails every single day. However, those in the group say they are different, because many of them are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
“We are willing to die for righteousness, we are willing to jump in front of a bullet," stated Demetrius Whitney, a violence interrupter. "You think we don’t know what we up against with the young guys that’s out here doing the mischief. We were those young guys, we changed our lives, and we are willing to die for righteousness."