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Mitchell: Demand police accountability while working for peace

"We want to work with the police," said Executive Director of The Black Star Project Phillip Jackson after announcing plans to mobilize community members on Labor Day weekend. | Angie Stewart/Chicago Sun-Times

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Outside of family members, few people sustain outrage over the senseless murder of a young black person.

We feel sorry for the grief-stricken. But when the victim’s photograph disappears from the media, we go back to our own lives.

It is quite a different story when a police officer is accused of unjustifiably killing a black person.

Paul O’Neal, 18, was fatally wounded July 28 when police officers opened fire on a stolen Jaguar he was riding in.

A video clip, released Friday, that showed an unidentified officer’s hand discharging his weapon at the fleeing vehicle motivated hundreds to demonstrate in the Loop.

At one point, the diverse crowd stretched two blocks long and shut down traffic.

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Oppression issued a statement on Monday listing several demands, including that the “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance proposed by Ald. Ed Burke is “thrown out.”

We don’t see that kind of political muscle being flexed to address the appalling homicide rate in predominantly black neighborhoods.

OPINION

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A Sun-Times Watchdogs Special Report found 72 percent of the 324 victims killed during the first six months of 2016 were African-American men. These victims were an average of 29 years old.

Phillip Jackson, founder and executive director of the Black Star Project, a not-for-profit organization, is rallying community groups to partner during the long Labor Day weekend to bring attention to this crisis.

“We are looking for a ‘surge of peace’ during that weekend,” he said.

Jackson came up with the idea after the Fraternal Order of Police urged officers to refuse “non-mandatory” overtime during Labor Day weekend, a period when the city typically experiences an uptick in homicides.

“We are not trying to replace the police on Labor Day. We are trying to build communities and increase community safety. We hope to have more Chicagoans than ever before walking and talking with their neighbors,” he said.

“That is how you increase the peace — not by grabbing a gun and challenging people but by getting to know your neighbors. We believe that the best way to limit negative interactions with the police is to build up our communities,” Jackson said.

Tio Hardiman, founder of Violence Interrupters, a not-for-profit anti-violence organization, said police couldn’t stop the killing even if officers are working overtime.

“The Chicago Police Department has been in response mode, they come after the fact,” he said.

Hardiman also said black men must bear some responsibility for the violence.

“Black men need to get off the couch and address their own family members to stop the killings in Chicago. The families have to get involved and organize in big numbers,” he said.

That’s what Jackson’s trying to do.

“Although we are going to focus on the 10 communities with the most challenges, this initiative is about all of Chicago. But keeping the peace is not good enough. You have to rebuild these communities. We have failed [at] giving these young people a world to live in and a vision to look forward to,” he said.

I was taught that where there is no vision, the people perish.

So while I’m all for marching to change a policing system that lacks real accountability, black people can’t afford to have tunnel vision.

“No one is saying that that young man should have been killed. But the same amount of time that we put in a protest, we need to put that same amount of time into doing the work to rebuild those communities. Otherwise, we will always be protesting,” Jackson said.

For more information go to CommunityPeaceSurge.org

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