Community activists on Wednesday called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to declare a state of emergency decree for gun violence after Chicago recorded its deadliest and most violent weekend yet this year.
Standing outside Chicago Police Department’s headquarters in Bronzeville, activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green and founder of My Block, My Hood, My City Jahmal Cole were joined by two other community activists as well as a mother whose 18-year-old son was fatally shot in 2006.
Green called gun violence a “public health crisis” and said “it’s clear” city leadership can’t get a handle on the situation. That’s why, he said, the group is asking Pritzker to step in.
“We are in a state of emergency in our neighborhoods and we need some help,” Green said, noting that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday declared gun violence in his state a disaster emergency.
Cole, who’s running for Congress, agreed with Green and called for “commonsense gun control laws to make sure we put an end to this madness.”
“We got babies dying left and right, we got more technology in our light poles than the classrooms, you got to order your breakfast through bulletproof glass. It’s been a state of emergency,” Cole said.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, 104 people were shot — 19 fatally — in Chicago, and at least 13 children were wounded in the shootings. The violent weekend prompted Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) — whose ward has seen an increase in shootings this year compared to 2020 — to call for the deployment of the Illinois National Guard.
Green disagreed with Beale’s proposal, saying the South and West Side communities plagued by gun violence need more federal funding, not more force.
“We’ve seen police try to tackle crime by increasing the police department’s numbers every year. What does that do? They put officers on overtime on holiday weekend, we still had the most violent weekend, so whether they’re in the neighborhoods or not, that’s not going to decrease the number,” Green said.
Green and Cole believe, with Pritzker’s help, that they can address some of the root causes of gun violence, including the lack of mental health facilities, job opportunities and funding for small businesses. Green asked for $1 billion worth of federal funds to be used as an investment into communities in need as well as support organizations embedded in those neighborhoods.
“We need funds for publicly funded mental health services, we need some resources, we need our block clubs to get back to work,” Cole said.
Green said, “We need this now. We can’t take another month, we can’t be doing this press conference in another week, after another bad weekend of violence, after another holiday of gunfire. We got to step in and we got to step in now.”
The group has recently reached out to Pritzker and is still waiting on him to act on their request, according to Green.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Pritzker’s office, did not mention Pritzker issuing a state of emergency decree, though she said the Democratic governor is committed to a “comprehensive approach to gun violence,” which includes investing in programs that produce pathways to better education, careers and safe communities.
“The Governor believes we have to treat the epidemic of gun violence as a public health crisis, which is why since day one his administration has significantly increased funding for violence interruption and prevention programs,” said Abudayyeh, noting that Pritzker increased funding to these programs by $50 million in his first year in office.
Abudayyeh also said this year’s budget allocates $128 million for violence prevention programs.