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Gun violence prevention rally calls for collaboration

Chicago CRED’s initiative will add 100 peacekeepers to violent hotspots across the city.

Jalon Arthur, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Chicago CRED, speaks at a anti-violence rally in Douglas Park. Members of the FLIP program (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) are on stage behind him. Tuesday June 15, 2021.
Jalon Arthur, director of strategic initiatives for Chicago CRED, speaks at an anti-violence rally Tuesday in Douglass Park.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Three anti-violence organizations pledged Tuesday to work together to tamp down gun violence in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

Chicago CRED, Communities Partnering 4 Peace and READI Chicago want to train 100 people to become violence intervention ambassadors.

Chicago CRED has 300 people working in the city’s 12 most-violent neighborhoods to resolve gang conflicts by helping draft nonaggression agreements. The peacekeepers are assigned to violence-prone intersections or other hotspots.

The groups’ collaboration was announced during an anti-violence rally in Douglass Park that included Aldermen Michael Scott (24th) and Michael Rodriguez (22nd).

“We’re struggling with public safety,” Scott said. “Not having commonsense gun laws federally affect us locally. So, guns out on the street all the time are really big problems for us. My job is to try to find economic development and resources to come back to this community.”

Norman Kerr, the director of violence reduction for the city, said Chicago was spending less than $1 million a year on violence reduction three years ago. The city is spending about $30 million this year.

“We all understand that gun violence is more than a crime problem. It’s a public health problem. It’s an opportunity deficit,” Kerr said. “It has its roots in economic injustice. And the solution goes far beyond traditional policing.”

Kerr said he knows intervention work can save lives.

Chicago CRED spokesperson Peter Cunningham said there are 45 peacekeepers in North Lawndale, with about five assigned at each hotspot. At least six people will be added to the neighborhood.

Brena Palms-Barber, executive director of the North Lawndale Employment Network, said her organization’s partnership with READI will aid violence prevention.

“Our families are struggling with mental health issues, the lack of access to health care and the weight of systemic racism. And it does lead to poor choices in poor environments,” said Palms-Barber. “So it’s much more complicated, much more sophisticated of an issue than just simply giving people a job.”

Cunningham said joining forces with Communities Partnering 4 Peace and READI Chicago can pay off for North Lawndale and Little Village.

“There are Black and Brown tensions between Little Village and North Lawndale. Some of these organizations are involved with the groups here,” said Cunningham. “We get to know these organizations, and we try to get them to negotiate peace agreements to stop the shootings.”