We know one of the leaders of Chicago’s notorious street gangs definitely didn’t reach out to a Cleveland pastor to arrange a “sit down.”
Earlier this month, a federal jury found the reputed leader of the so-called “Hobos”, Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester and six members,” guilty of a racketeering conspiracy and five murders.
Feds described the “Hobos” as a super-gang that has been terrorizing its foes on the city’s South and West Sides for a decade.
But apparently, there are a lot of other “Bowlegs” running around Chicago.
As of Monday, there have been 52 homicides this year in the city.
Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to send the feds to intervene. Trump never explained what he meant.
But at a meeting Trump held Wednesday with some of his African-American supporters, one said he would be coming to the city to talk to “top gangs.”
Darrell Scott, pastor of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, said the gang leaders reached out to him because he’s associated with Trump.
“I was recently contacted by some of the top gang thugs … for a sit-down. They reached out to me because they associated me with you. They respect you. They believe in what you’re doing and they want to have a sit-down about lowering that body count. So in a couple of weeks, I’m going to Chicago,” Scott said, according to a transcript of the meeting.
Scott described the “top gang thugs” as “guys straight from the streets.”
“I let him know, I said, we’ve got to lower that body count. And they agreed,” Scott added.
Scott didn’t identify whom he spoke with, and, of course, the media scrambled to track down the so-called “top gang thugs.”
Frankly, it sounds like a bunch of bull to me and to other activists who have worked with street folks for years.
(And indeed, Scott later told Yahoo News he meant to say “former” gang thugs, and he told Fox32 he spoke with just one gang member, and that the gang offer wasn’t as clear-cut as he told Trump. He blamed the mischaracterization on a lack of sleep. Scott could not be reached by the Sun-Times Wednesday night.)
“There are no major gang leaders in the city of Chicago,” noted Hal Baskin, a grass-roots activist in Englewood who was once a gang-banger.
“My reality — and I have been at this for 45 years — talking about bringing the body count down in exchange for social programs, you and I know that is a ridiculous idea,” he said.
“If he is saying he is meeting with some top people, that is fine. But he is from Cleveland and in order to understand the dynamics in the city of Chicago, you’d have to go to the local leaders that are calling the shots block by block.”
In 2010, former Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis held a secret meeting with so-called gang leaders, and later claimed the homicide rate actually dropped 40 percent in high-crime areas on the West Sides.
But Weis hadn’t promised “social programs.” He had promised to round up scores of gang members in one swoop if one gang member was suspected of a serious crime.
If gang members know anything, they know their rights. They organized a press conference to complain about the policing initiative and it quietly disappeared.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has stressed that gang structure is no longer organized when it comes to leadership.
Instead, there are cliques and factions that claim territory block by block.
Maurice Perkins, founder of Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation, wasn’t quick to dismiss the idea that Scott might be talking to gangs, pointing out that there was a national gang summit in Cleveland in 1993.
“I don’t know that kingpins have that recognition or have a firm grip on influence today, but they still have a connection with one another,” he said.
Tio Hardiman, president of Violence Interrupters, said he doesn’t blame the pastor for wanting to help, but agreed there isn’t any real gang structure in Chicago.
“Chicago is too divided politically, religiously and on the streets and that’s why we can’t stop the violence,” he said.
I don’t see the feds making deals with gang members. But nothing should surprise us at this point.Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST