A large group of elected officials, pastors, activists and residents converged outside of the doors of City Hall on June 27 for a demonstration held “to demand fair treatment from government,” according to Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), who joined the contingent.
“As the violence in Chicago continues to rage, too many are feeling hopeless,” Boykin stated. “Those same people, in most cases, face higher taxes, pay more for food, insurance, gas, credit and generally face more difficult life road blocks than those who have been blessed with more.”
More specifically, the demonstrators urged lawmakers to support legislation that addresses the crises happening across the predominantly black and Hispanic West and South Sides
Rev. Ira Acree, the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin and co-chairman of the Leaders Network — a faith-based social justice organization— specifically urged lawmakers to support House Bill 4008, which would appropriate emergency funding for violence prevention measures,.
On the day of the demonstration, Acree put out a statement on his Facebook page to supporters, telling them to file as proponents of the bill. Acree said that he was prompted to participate in last week’s action after meeting with a high school freshmen from Austin whom he’s mentoring.
“It broke my heart to hear this smart, young lady, with an impressive academic record, tell me she is not looking forward to the summer because she feels she will be bored to death as a result of being too scared to go outside,” Acree stated in the Facebook post. “This is no way for a 14-year-old to spend her summer.”
Acree referenced a violence summit held in May that was co-hosted by the New York Times and the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Full coverage, including a video of the event, can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/chicago-violence.html?_r=0.
Experts in different specialties, journalists and community leaders spoke about ways to reduce the unprecedented level of crime in Chicago. Crime Lab Director Jens Ludwig called the spike in gun violence “a completely, unexpected, dramatic increase” that happened “almost instantaneously.”
The root causes of the violence are familiar, and they can seem intractable: poverty, segregation, subpar education, distrust of the police,” New York Times reporter Mitch Smith wrote.
“The relationship between community and law enforcement, which is an absolutely necessary component to get to solutions, has been fractured,” said Kim Foxx, the Cook County state’s attorney.
Acree said that “we need all hands on deck to stem the violence and provide communities the help they need.”
The clergyman added that “unless there is a significant investment in job creation, the epidemic of gun violence and the depreciation of the quality of life for black Chicagoans will not only continue, but it’ll get worse.”