By Chinta Strausberg
While celebrating the 29th anniversary of PUSH Excel’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast and Dr. King’s “life, living and his legacy,” Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. Monday called the criminal justice system “unjust and unfair” and one that is “under suspicion” while poverty abounds in poor communities.
Reflecting on Dr. King’s last birthday, Jackson said King met with 60 people, including whites from Appalachia, coalminers, Blacks, Christians, Jewish allies from New York, Latino Americans from southwest Texas, and California, and others from the deep South.
King discussed how to end poverty in America and how to “shift from killing abroad to healing at home,” recalled Jackson. “It was disgraceful to have commitment” to have large numbers of people “and not give back to the hungry, the poor.”
Juxtaposing the 1960s national agenda to the present, Jackson said, “Here we are today, and some young men and women have been in jail for up to five-years on pre-trial detention because they cannot afford the $700 bail to get out of jail.”
Jackson made his remarks during a press conference held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Wacker Drive, where he was joined by mayoral candidates Dr. Willie Wilson, Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle, and Susana Mendoza.
Speaking of the current criminal justice system, Jackson referred to 40-year-old former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, found guilty of killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, but only receiving a 6.7-year sentence “minus three-years for good behavior.”
Something is wrong with the system Jackson said, when Mickiael Ward, 18, who killed 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, received 84 years. “A misplaced wild shot, 84-years; 16 shots six years …. That’s covering up justice,” Jackson said.
And for the former Chicago detectives, David March and Joseph Walsh and Chicago police officer Thomas Gaffney, accused of covering up Van Dyke’s shooting by filing similar reports that contradicted the video, Jackson said, “The police saw it, lied and walked away free…. It was an injustice.”
Because Dr. King graduated from Morehouse at age 19, earned a seminary degree at 22 and received a Ph.D. at age 26, Jackson said King was a scholar who “used his knowledge to liberate others whose backs were against the wall.”
Referring to 74-year-old Judge Vincent Gaughan who sentenced Van Dyke, Jackson said he “once shot a M1 rifle into his next-door neighbor’s twice, barely missing the police. He said he would come down if he called a priest. The whole system is under suspicion of being unjust and unfair, two sets of rules.”
On national issues, Jackson said the 800,000 federal employees on furlough “are being forced to work without pay, used as pawns in a scheme of an unnecessary wall to the monument to Trump. Most drugs do not come across the desert on the backs of the poor. They come through the ports, carports, seaports, and airports. We are the largest drug market in the world. Drugs are demand driven, not supply driven,” he said.
On Saturday January 26 Jackson is again giving away 150 gift cards during the 10 a.m. broadcast at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., to help the federal furloughed workers buy food for the weekend.
While this is happening, Jackson said, “poverty is abounding at the lowest level of our society” and among the eight endangered Black communities, unemployment is in double digits.
Lightfoot, Preckwinkle and Wilson also spoke on the Van Dyke sentence with Lightfoot hoping that the U.S. attorneys “reinvigorate their grand jury investigation” and indict Van Dyke on civil rights charges. She said all of the officers involved in the cover-up including their supervisors “deserve their light in the sun” that can only come from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Preckwinkle, who boasted she first exposed the autopsy of McDonald, said we should all be like Dr. King, “a drum major for justice.”
Wilson, who recently bailed out 46 people from jail, said, “We need to investigate the politicians too,” not just the judge.
Jackson announced he would launch a $1 million scholarship drive in April and plans to take computers to jail to teach detainees apps, codes, and programming.