Youth group calls on Lightfoot to drop proposal to to sue, seize assets of gang members
The ordinance would do harm to people who are unaffiliated with gangs.
A group of youth activists called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to drop a proposed ordinance that would allow thecity to sue violent gang members to potentially seize their assets.
Miracle Boyd, an activist with GoodKids MadCity, a youth group that wants the city to focus on root causes of violence instead of punitive measures, said the proposed ordinance — called the Victims’ Justice Ordinance — would unfairly target communities of color.
“It will hurt impoverished families,” Boyd said Friday at a news conference outside City Hall. “Families could be left homeless because of an alleged affiliation to gang members.”
The ordinance would target gangs that engage in a “course or pattern of criminal activity” defined as two or more gang-related criminal offenses in Chicago within five years of each other.
The mayor’s plan would empower judges or court officers to impose fines as high as $10,000 for each offense and seize “any property that is directly or indirectly used or intended for use in any manner to facilitate street gang-related activity.”
That’s in addition to “compensatory damages for all losses, impairments or other harms caused by” Chicago street gangs.
Boyd and fellow activist Taylore Norwood pointed to the city’s problematic use of a gang database, which critics have complained includes people who don’t belong to gangs.
“It is not illegal to be affiliatedwith a gang,” Norwood said. “Criminalizing members of communities for things that are out of theircontrolis the wrong thing to do.”
At the same City Council meeting where Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced the ordinance, she also introduced a separate ordinance empowering the Chicago Police Board to hear appeals by Chicagoans who feel their names have been incorrectly included in the gang database.
“We really want to know, what’s your definition of a gang member?” said Eric Wilkins, head of the anti-violence group Broken Winggz. “Everybody in Chicago knows somebody who was affiliated back in the day, but now you see fragments of individuals just doing what they want to do, it’s more freelance than it is anything.”
Wilkins and Boyd reiterated their hope that city leaders will get behind a “Peace Book Ordinance,” which wouldredirect 2% of Chicago Police Department funding to support an array of city services that would address the root problems that are behind gangs and violence in Chicago.
Lightfoot’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The mayor has previously said she was “not targeting gangs on the corner” but rather “gang leadership” who’ve been “recruiting and corrupting” a continuous pipeline of young people “by flaunting a lavish lifestyle of money, cars, jewelry and guns.”
The legislation will face opposition within the City Council, including from Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, who labeled the ordinance “bad policy” that “plenty” of civil rights groups oppose.