Cleveland-area pastor Darrell Scott abruptly canceled a planned meeting Tuesday with “street leaders” eager to bring an end to violence in Chicago with the help of President Donald Trump.
Scott’s National Diversity Coalition for Trump on Monday afternoon issued a press release announcing a “gang summit” to be held roughly 24 hours later at the O’Hare Marriott, apparently delivering on a statement Scott made last month about a proposed meeting with “top gang thugs in Chicago” to broker peace in the city.
A few hours later, during a phone interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Scott said the event was no “gang summit” and would be a small affair, with “15 to 20 guys” and developers willing to offer jobs. Around 10 p.m., another statement from the Coalition announced the event was being rescheduled.
Scott made headlines in February when he emerged from a Black History Month meeting with the president and announced “top gang thugs in Chicago” had told him they were eager to work with the Trump administration to “bring down the body count” in the city in exchange for federal aid.
Scott had walked back his remarks after learning that the “top gang thug” he had talked with was a community activist who denies involvement in gangs. On Monday, Scott sounded chastened by the skepticism from Chicago activists who have worked with youths and gang members for years.
“We’re just calling it a sit-down,” Scott said in a phone interview Monday. “They’re not in gangs . . . they’re street leaders, community activists.”
“I’m not trying to be the hero of Chicago,” Scott said. “I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes in Chicago. . . . Somebody called me for help. If somebody called me from Juneau or Fairbanks, Alaska, I would have responded the same way.”
Scott said he had been contacted by Torrence Cooks, who told Scott he works with youths on the South Side, not long after Trump was elected. Scott has been one of Trump’s most vocal African-American supporters, was a speaker at the Republican National Convention and hosted a press conference at his suburban Cleveland mega-church for Trump during the campaign.
Scott said Monday that Cooks had contacted “15, 20 guys” with knowledge of what’s happening in Chicago’s streets, and “anyone else who wants to come. It’s at [Cooks’] invitation.”
Scott said he invited several developers who have jobs to offer, and said a representative from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office also would attend. Rauner’s office did not respond to questions about the meeting.
Scott said he had not discussed his trip to Chicago with the White House and would wait to see how the gathering goes before deciding whether to approach Trump about federal aid for the city.
“I don’t know. We’ll see what happens at this meeting,” Scott said. “If I see there’s something there worth communicating to the White House, I will.”
Trump has made Chicago a frequent topic in speeches and his Twitter feed, even making a vague pledge to “send in the Feds” to quell violence, apparently after watching a news report about the city’s murder rate.
Chicago saw 781 murders last year, the highest total in any American city. But on per-capita basis, Cleveland has a far higher murder rate — about 35 killings per 100,000 residents — versus 28 murders per 100,000 in Chicago.