Local elected officials, clergy, labor leaders and community activists gathered Tuesday for an emergency meeting to discuss the violence plaguing many of Chicago's neighborhoods.
The two-hour meeting, pulled together by Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow/PUSH, sought to create a blueprint for the group to work from in pushing back against "the violence that has turned parts of the city into domestic war zones."
The group agreed upon a four-point action plan to combat the violence affecting numerous Chicago neighborhoods, particularly on the city's South and West sides. The plan calls for the following:
- A White House summit to be organized as soon as possible and held in Chicago - the epicenter of what has become a national crisis of gun violence.
- The end to the easy access to guns by enforcing existing laws, including more rigorous and thorough background checks, and the passing of new gun control legislation if necessary.
- The implantation of job training programs in the schools and job creation efforts by both the private and public sectors.
- And expanding the focus on and the funding of mental health care services throughout the city, but especially in Chicago's most besieged and neglected neighborhoods.
"This is a state of emergency," Jackson said to those in attendance, which included state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church, Elder Michael Eaddy of People's Church of the Harvest COGIC, Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, and Kublia Tour, executive director of Amer-I-Can Illinois. "It's guns in, drugs in, hope down, violence up."
Jackson attributed the violence to high unemployment, poverty, the closure of half of the city's mental health facilities as well as "the foreclosed and abandoned houses, churches and factories, [and] the shuttered schools" that populate most of Chicago's crime-ridden communities. But the crime is also spreading to areas that previously did not see such violence.
"Jim Bloom, who lives a few blocks from President Barack Obama's Kenwood mansion ... fought back tears as he told the group that he got involved in anti-violence efforts in July shortly after gunfire erupted just outside the bedroom window of his 19-month-old daughter," reads a release detailing the meeting. "'I never thought it would happen here,' Bloom said later. But when it comes to gun violence, Rev. Jackson points out, no one is safe until everyone is safe."