Father Pfleger: â€˜Weâ€™re not afraid of the NRA. Theyâ€™re punks.â€™
By Chinta Strausberg
While the death toll continued to rise even as they protested outside of Chuckâ€™s Gun Shop, a diverse group of Civil Rights leaders Saturday called for a Marshall Plan that includes creation of jobs and a call for state lawmakers to pass a bill that would title guns like cars.
Since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. said 1 million people have been killed due to gun violence, 350,000 blacks killed since 1976 and 7,000 since the Afghanistan, South Korean, Iraq conflict. â€œWe are going to expand this struggle against violence,â€ he said.
Led by Jackson and Father Michael L. Pfleger, they were joined by scores of others including Jacksonâ€™s son, Jonathan, the national spokesperson for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rev. Dr. Leon Finney, pastor of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, Rev. Rodney Reinhart, pastor of the Saint Clementâ€™s Episcopal in Harvey, Ill, Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against handgun Violence (ICHV), Bishop Tavis Grant, Julian Deshazier, pastor of the University Church in Hyde Park, activist Denise Dixon, Joi Cornlious, the mother of Mackenzi Dowdy, 2, who lost her fiancÃ©e to gun violence, activists Eddie Read, Zakiyyah S. Muhammad and many others.
While protesters chanted, â€œTitle guns like cars,â€ Chuckâ€™s Gun Shop had closed. Three employees stood atop the roof filming the protesters.
Jackson told reporters, â€œWe want a Marshall Plan, not just Marshall Law.â€ Jackson said they would be challenging gun laws around the country.Â Jackson said this is a movement to stop the proliferation of guns. â€œWe must intensify the protest. It took us nine-years to get a public accommodations bill to get to the front of the bus. It took us long enough to get the right to vote. â€œNo one is safe until all of us are safeâ€¦.
â€œIn these very dangerous times, weâ€™re finding a war against weapons of mass destructionâ€¦. More Americans are dying (from illegal guns) than in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Korea combined,â€ said Jackson.
Standing with Jackson, Pfleger said he is asking the state legislature to pass a bill to title guns like cars. â€œWhy is the NRA and the gun manufacturers fighting us so hard on a simple gun registration like you register a car? One reason, itâ€™s money.Â Itâ€™s a business decision,â€ Pfleger told reporters. â€œIf they stop easy access to guns in America, if they stop guns from flowing into the streets, itâ€™s a business decision for them. The NRA has decided to support the gun manufacturers and make a whole lot of money off the bodies of our children in the street.â€
To those who argue guns are not the problem, it is the people; Pfleger had an answer for them. â€œIf I had a staircase and I had a skateboard on top of the staircase, I would have to teach my child to stay away from the skateboard on the staircase but I also have an obligation to remove the dangerous item, the skateboard.
â€œGuns are dangerous items in this country. They are killing. There is a genocide going on in Chicago and across this country, and we have to get rid of guns and we got to make gun owners responsible. We have to take the NRA down. Weâ€™re not afraid of the NRA. They are punks,â€ said Pfleger.
Jackson said guns are not the only problem blamed for the violence in Chicago. â€œItâ€™s not just guns out but itâ€™s also jobs in.â€ He said his Marshall Plan calls for stopping the flow of guns and the creation of jobs. â€œThere is no present planâ€ of employment. He said 55 percent of all black men in these neighborhoods are unemployed. â€œUnemployment is unacceptable.â€ This is a war zone,â€ said Jackson as protesters chanted, â€œguns out, jobs in.â€
Referring to the recently held NATO summit, Jackson said, â€œThey protected our guests but not our residentsâ€¦. In the glad three-weeks, thereâ€ have been a number of shootings. â€œThere is a sense of urgency about thisâ€¦.
â€œIn the contained zone, itâ€™s acceptable, but when it goes north, itâ€™s unacceptable. It should not go anywhere,â€ Jackson said referring to the increase shooting incidents. He said there is a double standard when blacks kill blacks and a harsher penalty when blacks kill whites. â€œNobody has the right to kill anybody.â€
Asked if the President should take on this issue, Jackson said banning assault weapons would be a step in the right direction. â€œWe need a Marshall Plan, not just marshal law. That means a comprehensive urban policy,â€ he said in cities where unemployment especially among blacks is unacceptably high. â€œEvery American deserve a chance, and they never have a chance in the war zone. We live in a war zone. Weâ€™re helplessâ€ given the flow of illegal guns in urban America.
â€œThe companies we helped to bail out, they closed, took our jobs to cheaper markets. They got paid to take jobs away. The gun shops get paid to bring the guns in; so between the money and bringing the guns in, the money taking the jobs, out, weâ€™re left as carnage. This is unacceptable. This is not the American dream,â€ said Pfleger.
Looking at the gates outside of Chuckâ€™s Gun store, Jackson said, â€œWhen people fight back, we can win this war for peace.â€
Saying especially since in Woodlawn where guns are a major problem, Finney said, â€œWe have to stop the manufacturing as well as the sale of handguns because they are the source of so much violence in our community. Our challenge has always been to use our moral force against those involved in political force to the degree and destruction of our people. We intend to stop the manufacturing of guns across this country.â€
Finney said, â€œit is very important for us to make a statement that it is time to take the guns off the streets and the best way to do that is to begin with the sale of handgunsâ€ he said is very destructive. â€œThe murder rate in the African American community exceeds any other community in any other time in history. Itâ€™s time for us to build a coalition of consumers to stop the sale of guns and this is one step of many.â€
Daley told reporters: â€œMore guns on the street is not the answerâ€¦. People need to be aware of what is going on. This is not a black issue. It is not a white issue. It is not a rich issue. Itâ€™s not a poor issue. A bullet doesnâ€™t know what you look like or who you are. This is our problem.â€ â€œWe need the people who are responsible gun ownersâ€¦. We need things like titling guns like cars. Itâ€™s just that simple.â€
Reinhart said while being inspired by Jackson for many years, he said, â€œIt is important that we as people all stand together against places like Chuckâ€™s Gun Shop and organizations like the NRA. You got to stand up against them because people are making massive amounts of money by creating death for our children and the children of all of our friends.â€ He said these deaths are attributed to the sale of guns from places where â€œno questions are asked.â€ â€œA single gun can be used many timesâ€ resulting in a number of deaths.
Jackson said what is surprising to him is that â€œWeâ€™re being attack fighting the end to violenceâ€¦..â€
His son, Jonathan, said, â€œThis is how we are honoring Fatherâ€™s Day. We will participate in Sundayâ€™s Real Men Cook, but today men have to march to help put and end to gun violence. We know where guns are sold from in the state of Illinois in Cook County. We know that Chuckâ€™s Gun Shop here in Riverdale is a major source of revenue for the township. We also know that it is a major source of violence and death for the citizens of Chicago.
â€œWe know where the guns are coming from,â€ said Jonathan Jackson. â€œThe children do not have a license to buy a gun. They do not have an ID to buy a hold to hold a (FOID) card. These are adults purchasing guns, reselling the guns. Weâ€™ve heard about a drug bust. Why not a gun bust? Why not find the people who are selling and reselling these guns? Children are not manufacturing them. They are not distributing them. The children are at the end of this vicious death cycle,â€ said the father of three.
Bishop Grant, the national field director for the Rainbow PUSH, said, â€œThis store is closed today but we can close (gun) stores across the nation. â€œIn Chicago in 2011, there were 361 murders of which 351 of them were handgun-related. Rolling back Stand Your Ground, going after the Castle doctrine as well as toughening and strengthening background checks and reviving a ban on assault weapons is the way to go.â€
For Deshazie, it is his first protest. â€œI am out here representing us, the younger generation who said we are the victims, but I think we can do better,â€ said the 29-year-old Morehouse College graduate.
But not everybody agreed. Robert Ketcham, who described him as an unemployed union electrician and a Riverdale homeowner, said the protest against the gun shop is â€œTotally wrong. Yes, he is selling guns, but you have to have a license to get ammunition. The moral value is in the shooterâ€™s hands. The shooter is the one who decides who to shoot, not the guns. If we didnâ€™t have guns, we wouldnâ€™t have had the Revolutionary War. We would not be free. Gun manufacturers create jobs. Itâ€™s the person shooting the gun is the one who doesnâ€™t have the moral value.â€
Pfleger accused Chuckâ€™s Gun shop of â€œrunning and hiding every single time, but thatâ€™s a victory for us.â€ Pfleger said he has tried to communicate with the owners of the shop to no avail. â€œOur next step is to continue to educate the country and put pressure from the White House all the way down to local governments to say we need to make these laws, need to put in responsibility, need to stop easy access and have people get registration.â€
Referring to the upcoming July 4th holiday, Pfleger said, â€œPeople are going to be coming from Indiana to buy fireworks and get stopped at the border for bringing fireworks back to Chicago. Why canâ€™t we stop them at the border bring guns from Chuckâ€™s Gun Shop to Chicagoâ€?
Pfleger wants the Governor to push the registration bill. He wants guns titled like cars. â€œWe have to get every resident to understand that you canâ€™t sit back and be overwhelmed over the violence and the killing. You got to get mad, outraged and involved. When everybody feels like we feel, this will stop.â€
Pfleger said his youngest son, Jarvis, 17 was killed by a gun in 1998. â€œIâ€™ve had a whole lot of funerals of kids, 13-year-old, 11-year-old killed by guns. I am going to be passionate until we stop the killing of our children. This is genocide in America.â€
Jackson said their battle to end the flow of illegal guns is the next Civil Rights movement. â€œThere can be no growth in war zones. We demand equal protection under the law.â€ Jackson said there is a different standard when it comes to south and west side shootings. â€œWe must reject any different standard for standard for any side of town. Stopping guns is one leg of the stool is stopping guns and creating jobs another.
Jackson said the impact of gun violence affects the cost of health insurance as well as affecting the budgets of municipalities.
Jackson and Pfleger said they would come back again with Pfleger vowing to march every Friday night at 6:30 p.m. He welcomed everyone to join him on his quest for peace.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.