Fireworks or Gunshots?

    Leaders and clergy to examine systemic violence in Chicago and Illinois

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    Crusader staff report

    As gun violence rips through neighborhoods during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a diverse group of state, county and city leaders and lawmakers have pledged to hold several public meetings on systemic violence throughout the state. Leaders say the goal of the coalition of leaders is to assess the current systematic impact of violence in Illinois, as well as to develop improved strategizes through public policy.

    The announcement was made on Tuesday, July 3 at the State of Illinois at 100 W. Randolph. The coalition made the announcement one day before the July Fourth holiday, which has become the most violent holiday in Chicago and Illinois.

    According to the latest data, 220 people in Chicago have been shot and killed this year and 1,186 have been injured. In June, 48 people have died from gunshot wounds and 289 were injured. Already in July, two people have died and 18 people were injured after being shot.

    The team of leaders and clergymen aims to achieve a “more meaningful holiday with the slogan The 4th of July Safe Independence Day!” They said families everywhere should be free to enjoy the full meaning of this very special day in America.

    While national crime rates remain historically low, the state of Illinois is experiencing a disturbing trend of violent crime increases. In contrast to national crime trends over the last two years, many areas within Cook County and throughout Illinois have witnessed startling crime spikes. The group will examine the role of government as it relates to addressing violent crime particularly in the African American and Hispanic communities throughout Illinois. These public hearings are not intended to provide commentary on or an evaluation of any specific government leader, but rather to look forward to opportunities in reducing the alarming trend of various forms of violence throughout Illinois.

    “Violence is all around us, we cannot let violence take control of our daily lives. We will not allow violence to simply be a public norm.” says Pastor Anthony Williams.

    Through these public hearings, the group will make available violent crime data in Illinois; the role that domestic issues play in violent crime trends; federal resources and accountability (or lack thereof); and advocate the need for more tools, strategies and leadership. The group will also ask of various Illinois law enforcement executives to speak with clarity about many key issues that provide opportunities to make a defining impact on reducing localized violent crime. The group is also seeking to formalize mechanisms that allow jointly-led partnerships to address violent crime, as opposed to disparate federal efforts implemented concurrently with different objectives, strategies and outcomes in mind.

    The group will outline to the press the series of public hearings, public hearing panelists, objectives and overall mission. The first of many hearings throughout the state may begin as early as next month under Representative La Shawn K. Fords’ Restorative Justice Committee.

    The leaders who are part of the coalition are Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, Illinois State Representative Camille Lilly, Illinois State Representative Lisa Hernandez, Illinois State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, Alderman Carrie M. Austin and Alderman Anthony Beale In addition, Pastor Anthony Williams (First Congregational Church of Berwyn) and Bishop Larry D. Trotter (Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago) are also working with the elected leaders. All of the abovementioned leaders will be present.

    It has become apparent that residents of Illinois continuously have to question whether they truly feel safe in their homes, communities, schools and towns. The goal of these hearings is to not only hear the many horrid stories of violence, but to also focus on why people fear the disease of violence.

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