By Chinta Strausberg
With homicides fast approaching 500 since the first of the year and so far 2800 people have been shot, Father Michael L. Pfleger Wednesday called for a state of emergency literally took to the streets leading his supporters to 79th and Racine where he blocked traffic then drew “SOS” in the middle of the intersection.
To make his S.O.S. even more clear, Father Pfleger once again turned his U.S. flag upside which indicates a state of emergency.
Saying what is needed is to “pull the best of our country together” to resolve the escalation of gun violence in Chicago, Pfleger they can come up with a viable plan to curb gun violence.
“We need to deal with double digit unemployment…under-performing and under-supported schools. We need to deal with the lack of economic development. We need people who are coming out of prison to have more than $20 and a bus card and say ‘survive.’
“We need to deal with the poverty in this city. We need to deal with the abandoned buildings and the biggest the biggest slum landlords, which are the banks in this city. We need to deal with no economic development in our community, no signs of hope or life or future. We need to deal with the proliferation of guns,” said Pfleger.
He referred to a bill in Springfield that if passed would require background checks. “We don’t have a damn government that will pass the bill…”
When Gov. Rauner said he did not want the national guards to come in, Pfleger said, “I agree because the National Guard comes in to oppress. We don’t need suppression. We need transformation. We need development. We need hope.
“I am asking Gov. Rauner to call for a state of emergency for the city of Chicago.”
Calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner to declare a state of emergency, Pfleger said when there are floods or hurricanes, federal funds are sent to help rebuild those communities.
“We have the virus of violence and gunfire. We have communities that look like Third World countries like it must of have a tornado or hurricane hit it.”
Pfleger who said we must deal with this poverty) said if you put two tigers in a cage, sooner or later one would eat the other one. It’s call survival. Well, we’re in a cage on the South and West side. We are locked in poverty and unemployment, lack of economic development and poor schools.”
“Why are people killing each other,”? Pfleger asked, because they are hopeless, desperate and we always hurt those we’re closest to us. We want a state of emergency. We want this over with…ended. We will not continue to look at new numbers every day and every weekend.”
Referring to Labor Day weekend, Father Pfleger scoffed at Dean Angel, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) who told the police not to work any over time. Pfleger called Angelo “stupid” and old him to “go to hell. How dare you tell police to not do overtime and make our streets less safe. We’re already short of police. That’s the same guy who hired (Jason) VanDyke” who killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald.
Father Pfleger led his followers to 79th and Racine asking them to lay down and block traffic. They prayed and had a moment of silence for the gunshot victims.
“We want to live,” they chanted. Listing the other demands. “Save our children…. We need help. Chicago needs help. We’re tired of the blood…tired of the tears…state of emergency. Gov. Rauner call for a state of emergency in Chicago now. How many lives will have to die before we get help”?
Rev. Melech Thomas, Covenant United Church of Christ, as did Glenda Franklin, Saint Sabina’s office manager, and Rev. Saeed Richardson. The children of Saint Sabina sang a medley of peace songs including one entitle, “I Need Your Help.”
Pfleger took a jug of mock blood and wrote SOS in the middle of the street. He then led them back to the church where he turned the U.S. flag upside down. To his critics he told them they should get equally as mad “about the blood in the street.” He said what is needed is all 77 neighborhoods shut down the streets until help has arrived. “We need help,” bellowed Pfleger.
Agreeing was Wateka Kleinveter who lost two grandsons to gun violence on July 28, 2016 around 10:15 p.m. Christopher Merritt, 25, who survived the attack, but his brother, Jonathan Lane, 23, died. “They were coming from Walmart’s with groceries in their hands. Some guys jumped out of a black car with hoodies on and had pulled their T-shirts over their face.
Kleinveter, who was with her two grandchildren, Martiz Richardson, 9, and Bestily Merritt, 12, said, “They asked my grandsons where were they from. They were fighting but another two men jumped out of the car shooting…. We need help,” she said. Saint Sabina has a $5,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of her grandson’s murder.
Rev. Matthew S. O’Donnell from St. Columbanus Church, said, “I think today’s action is a great thing, and it is saying everybody in the state of Illinois and our city especially the south and west sides are in a state of distress. Turning the flag upside down is a way of symbolizing that, but it also about mobilizing the community to see that there needs to be addressed in our community,” O’Donnell said.
Echoing Father Pfleger’s demands, O’Donnell said, “We need help here in our city. We need more resources in our schools…in our mental health facilities. We need more resources on the street to make sure that not just police are here but peacemakers are also here so we can really address the violence is taking place.”
Reminded that elected officials have closed most of the mental health facilities, Rev. O’Donnell said, “They did and we see the results of that every day here in our community. People who are living here in our streets with addictions, people who don’t have the resources that they need to deal with the emotions that they have. We need those facilities open again in our communities.”