Boykin equates gangs to domestic terrorists

The announcement draws widespread criticism about its legality, effectiveness

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By Michael Romain


Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) is calling for charging shooters and accomplices of gun violence to be charged with domestic terrorism. Boykin announced his viewpoint at a May 26 press conference on the fifth floor of the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark Street. At the press event, Boykin also unveiled a collage dedicated to victims of gun violence, noting that the artwork "will be a reminder of our responsibility to come up with policies to reduce this violence." 

Boykin called gun violence offenders and their assailants a "minority of the community" that is "determined to destabilize communities." He added, "We must put an end to it, or else this violence will put an end to us."

Boykin also outlined a seven-point plan for violence reduction that includes holding parenting workshops, creating job training programs and expanding drug courts, along with "other therapeutic court models." 

But it's his idea to charge shooters and assailants, many of them gang members, as domestic terrorists that has gotten the most attention and incited widespread criticism from media outlets and community members. 

Toure Muhammad wrote in the Bean Soup Times that Boykin's push for domestic terrorism charges "ignores the history and the facts and gets people to waste time and energy on a solution that has already been proven to fail." 

And on its Twitter feed, the Bean Soup Times noted that the charges could "result in shoddy police work and false convictions."

Boykin responded by tweeting that the domestic terrorism charges could be "a valuable law enforcement tool" and that the charges "bring investigative resources to bear that are essential." 

Ronald Lawless, a West Side political and educational consultant who ran against Boykin during last year's race for the commissioner's seat, said that there are "critical differences between the black 'gangbangers' and ISIS militants." 

Lawless said, unlike terrorists such as the Ku Klux Klan, "there is nothing political about" the behavior of Chicago gang members. 

"Maybe Commissioner Boykin would be more careful about [calling] young black men [terrorists] if they became political in their actions," Lawless said. "Because those terrorists could vote him out of office." 

Austin attorney Blake Sercye, who also ran against Boykin in last year's election, said that the source of domestic terrorism laws is the Patriot Act, "a federal statute that, although probably well-intentioned, has been used to justify domestic and international civil and human rights violations for more than a decade." 

During an interview with Fox 32, Boykin, an attorney by profession, said his idea has been tested in New York, but that the courts "tossed out that case." He said because the case wasn't tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court, the charges can still be written into law in Illinois.  

In April, Boykin drew media attention after pressuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel to add more police officers in the Austin neighborhood. Adam Salzman, Boykin's policy director, said as a result of the commissioner's pressure, the sheriff "deployed its Mobile Command Center and more than 70 its police officers to the Austin community [on May 6] to provide local law enforcement." 

Boykin is planning a joint summit on gun violence between Cook County and the City of Chicago for Sat., June 13 at 10 a.m. at the University of Illinois's Chicago School of Public Health. 


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