At a news conference organized by self-identified gang members Thursday morning, several speakers complained that police and city officials do not respect them, and that the only way to curb violence is to provide jobs and improve their community.
The self-described current and former gang members held a news conference at the Columbus Park Refectory, at 5701 W. Jackson Blvd. on the city’s West Side.
“You say it’s gangs, drugs and guns. We say we need jobs, opportunities and contracts,” said Reginald Akeem Berry Sr., who identified himself as a former gang member. “That’s the resolution.”
They are taking issue with Weis’ [Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis] strategy of meeting with gang leaders and warning them of serious consequences if violence continues.
Weis held a meeting with the reputed leaders of several West Side gangs at the Garfield Park Conservatory over the weekend. At the meeting, prosecutors warned that the gang members could be charged under the federal racketeering laws if killings were traced back to gangs with members attending the meeting.
But at the news conference, the speakers said the city should be working to place young African-American men in jobs, particularly those with criminal records who have paid their debt to society.
All the speakers said repeatedly that they do not condone the violence in the community and “gang banging” and want to stop it. But they argued that gangs are not the cause of the violence.
“You keep saying gang violence. It’s drug-related. It’s not gang related. It’s drug related,” Akeem Berry said.
Gang members have also taken issue directly with the meeting Weis organized. They say they were tricked into coming to the meeting, and that it amounted to harassment.
Another Violent Night
Meanwhile, it was another violent night in Chicago, as one gang-related shooting quickly led to another in retaliation.
In the latest incident, a 14-year-old boy was shot around 7:30 p.m. in the 8300 block of South Baltimore Avenue in the South Chicago neighborhood. A gunman approached on foot and shot him in the thigh, said a South Chicago District police sergeant, adding that the boy is an alleged gang member.
About 8:43 p.m., a 20-year-old man was shot in the left arm in the 8300 block of South Phillips Avenue when an unknown gunman wearing sunglasses opened fire from a passing vehicle, said the sergeant.
There were several other shootings overnight for which the motive has not yet been released. One of them was fatal.
Gang members, former gang members, and job seekers.