After yet another bloody summer weekend in which four people were killed and 39 people were wounded, Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a closed-door summit Monday with community leaders and law enforcement officials to discuss violence that continues to grip Chicago.
“I think everybody here knows this is a deeper conversation. It’s more complex than how many ATF agents we have and how many kids we have enrolled in our mentoring program,” said Emanuel, before reporters were escorted out of the conference room at Chicago Police Department’s South Side headquarters.
“It’s about where the guns are coming from, where the law enforcement is, where our neighborhoods and communities are, where are parents are. Where are our investments and what we are doing to make sure that our kids start their education early and right and have the values so they can get all the way through not only to graduation, but on to the jobs that are coming to the city of Chicago.”
The summit was held just hours after a crowd of mourners poured out into a West Side street Sunday to hold vigil for Shamiya Adams, an 11 year-old girl who was killed Friday night when a stray bullet that flew into an apartment during a slumber party. So far, no arrests have been made, but police Supt. Garry McCarthy said detectives have some “good leads.”
“The case is progressing nicely,” said McCarthy, who added that he couldn’t discuss specifics. “We have a lot of information and the case is developing quickly.”
Monday’s summit drew local officials, clergy, activists, and law enforcement, including Chicago Public Schools superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Also present were the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who was killed in a park less than a mile from the President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home in 2013.
The event was hardly the first time local officials and community members have held meetings in the wake of violence. And the summit comes at a tough time for Emanuel. Heading into next year’s election, his poll number are dismal — especially among African-American voters who helped put him in office. While Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who polled well against the mayor, recently removed herself from contention, polling numbers show there is still a palpable sense of voter discontent.
Several who were in attendance said Emanuel’s administration struck a more empathetic tone than in the past. They added that the meeting didn’t just focus on neighborhood violence, but also a renewed call for community investment and job creation in poor neighborhoods.
“Often times you feel like you’re being talked at, or being told all the great things that are being done,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, the outspoken South Side pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church, on his way out of the conference room.
But this time Emanuel opened the floor for community groups, allowing them to air their concerns and grievances — a move Pfleger called “refreshing.”
“I don’t usually leave meetings feeling this good and I felt good today. Obviously … action has to take place now, but to be able to lay it out on the table, I thought was very good,” he said.
Similarly, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya Pendleton’s mother, said unlike at previous violence summits, officials seemed more receptive to community concerns.
“It’s not so much that things are different, as it is that things are being heard,” Cowley-Pendleton said.
Before the summit began, Emanuel characterized the city’s violence woes as a complex problem that requires a multi-fold solution.
“Everybody says ‘What are you going to do’ as if there is a single thing that is going to resolve this problem,” the mayor said. “It is a community-wide problem that requires a community-wide solution.”