March , 2019

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Calls for comprehensive plan of action

By Chinta Strausberg

Upset about the more than 90 shootings including at least 18 homicides that have taken place since the Fourth of July weekend, Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger Wednesday appeared on ABC 7’s “Windy City Live” where he called the violence acts of  “genocide.”

Pfleger was a special guest of “Windy City Live” co-hosts Val Warner, Ryan Chiaverini, and contributors Ji Suk Yi and Roe Conn.

Wearing his blue T-Shirt that says “Demand Peace,” Pfleger said, “If 90 soldiers inI raq got shot this weekend, we would have a national response to it, but 90 people get shot in Chicago primarily black and brown gets page 8 in some of the papers.

“We have to understand that this is genocide going on. This is a wiping out of a generation, and we have to understand that we have to take a comprehensive approach.”

Referring to the traditional finger pointing that goes on after a shooting where critics say parents or priests must do more, Pfleger said, “We need jobs.”

Pfleger said that need speaks volumes about the environment where these shootings are occurring. “You look in the areas where there is the most crime and you’ll find the highest unemployment, the worse educational systems, the worse economic development, the worse positive alternatives for young people (and) the most incarcerated coming back from jail.”

“If we don’t have the courage to deal with the major issue, we’re going to that many.  It’s not about just getting lower numbers. It’s about changing systemic problems that have kept this killing going for a long time, and I’m tired of hearing that homicides are down because for the mother who lost her child this morning or a father who lost…. He doesn’t care about homicides being down. His baby is dead,” said Pfleger.

Referring to Pfleger’s reference to Iraq, Conn told Pfleger, in Iraq or Afghanistan at least you know who you are going after. However, Conn added, “This is fratricide as opposed to homicide…. It’s neighbor-by-neighbor violence. The question is how do we change the culture here….”

Conn said in many instances the violence results from someone using an illegal gun“at the drop of a hat” and in some cases “it’s not about drug selling…but who looked at me funny, somebody disrespected me or you said something about me on Facebook. How do we get to people to not pull their guns out and shoot each other”? he asked.

Warner said, “That’s all they know is how to survive and that is what they do. It’s not right at all.  Remember back int he day, there were no guns. You had a good old fistfight. That is not the case anymore.”

Saying there have always been shootings in Chicago, Father Pfleger said when he was a child 800 people were being killed a year in this city. “If you look at your neighborhood, it looks like a Third World country. How do you value your life and value yourself?  You have all of this opportunity shut off…and you feel the only thing that gives me respect…the only thing that gives me any sense of power in my life because I have no power…. I can’t get a job. I can’t get a good education so my power is my gun.”

Pfleger said one young man told him his peers could be a Michael Jordan but they found out they couldn’t. “Everybody told us we could be the next Kanye. We can’t be that, but now all of a sudden because everybody can get a gun everybody can be a shooter.”

Referring to Marshfield Street located in the Auburn Gresham community, Father Pfleger aid there are abandoned houses and lots. Street leaders claim these areas he says nobody else wants.

Windy City Live co-hosts asked what could be done to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s double-digit shootings especially since guns are easily acquired from straw buyers whop urchase guns from Mississippi and sell them on the streets of Chicago.

“And,t here is no responsibility,” said Pfleger. “I can go right now buy 200 guns in Riverdale, sell them on the streets of Chicago and if that gun gets caught in a crime tomorrow they will say you bought this gun in Riverdale and you can say I must have lost it or it was stolen.

“I have been saying for ten-years title a gun like a car. If I have a car and Ig ive it to you, and I don’t transfer a title and you have an accident, they are coming for me. If I buy 200 guns, I got 200 titles. If I don’t transfer that tiitle, you’re going to jail,” said Pfleger.

Referring to the Obama administration requesting for $3.7 billion to curb immigrant children from crossing U.S. borders but not saying a word about the 82 shootings that occurred over the weekend in Chicago, Father Pfleger said, “We can’t find money for jobs for economic development. This is unacceptable.

“Some of our communities have been totally neglected and we’re talking about all of this money we’re spending for homeland security for terrorism overseas when we got terrorism here at home in Chicago…,” he said.

The largest employer for young people in the Midwest (1,000 slots), Pfleger said,“We took over West of Ashland, East of Halsted, 76th to 83rdand we said anything that happens in this area we take it personal. This is our territory. There will be no shooting, no killing.”

Pflege rwho in September of 2012 struck a peace truce with four street gangs in the Auburn Gresham community and who continues to hold 7 p.m. Friday night peace marches throughout the community said, “We put 160 through GED. I know for af act if people are given options, they want the job. They want the school. They want a future, but when you feel you have nothing…. Our job thing is working. We just got to do it on a broad basis and long-term.”

Pfleger said each week he brings together more than 150 people for his peace marches in an area that houses six different gangs with no police and not one single fight or incident. “It can be done,” he said.

He told of one man who was on the street and today he is driving a mega bus.  There is another man who came to him with an ankle bracelet on and today he is driving a CTA bus. Pfleger fought for jobs for them. He even sent them to school including free GED courses and sent some to college. Pfleger even bought many of them suits for their job interviews and provided them with the human resources they need for their families.

“People want options but you got to be able to say I believe in you, I love you, and I will help you,” said Pfleger.

In Chicago, Pfleger said there are 75,000 teenagers “who have been pushed out or dropped out of school. If we are not trying to reach them…if you are on thes treets every day with no job, no school, you are going to be involved in illegal activity.” Pfleger said one youth told him “the only options the institutions offer me is jail.”

Warner mentioned the mother who was shot in front of her own daughter at a Fourth of July barbecue. “It’s not even necessary gang-on-gang violence. People are scared to go out of their homes.”

When the “Windy City Live” staff mentioned the ending of the frisking in New York because it was racial profiling, Pfleger said, “I’m not willing to do that unless you do all.” He does not want police to stop gang members or make more arrests in the name of ending violence. Rather, Pfleger said, it has to be a comprehensive plan that involves jobs and education. “This thing didn’t happen overnight…. We got to have the courage to do the hard things and not just lock people up.”

Chiaverini added, “There is no simple answer and it’s certainly not going away.”

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.

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