Activists urge Biden to rethink anti-violence strategy

The group wants a congressional hearing in the city to address problems.

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Pastor Marvin Hunter speaks at a press conference responding to President Biden’s dispatching a federal task force to Chicago to stem gun violence. Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

The Rev. Marvin Hunter on Tuesday responded to President Biden’s dispatching a federal task force to Chicago to stem gun violence.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A group of Chicago-area activists is urging President Joe Biden to rethink his plan to send a strike force to help local police stem the flow of illegal guns into the city.

“In Chicago, the problem is not the end result of the person who pulls the trigger on the gun, as much as it is the system that allows him to have the gun,” said the Rev. Marvin Hunter, the senior pastor at Grace Memorial Baptist Church in the North Lawndale neighborhood and a great-uncle of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old murdered by a Chicago police officer in 2014.

Hunter and other activists are calling for, among other things, a congressional hearing in the city — with testimony from local mothers who have lost children to gun violence.

Hunter said sending federal forces into violence-plagued neighborhoods on the West and South sides would only make things worse.

“We do not need to be attacked. We need to be heard. We need to be helped,” Hunter said.

Activist Paul McKinley urged Biden to come to Chicago.

“The only way you can solve this problem: you’ve got to talk to the victims of the problem,” McKinley said. “You can no longer sit in the White House — in his ivory tower — and say, ‘I know what the answer is.’”

The Justice Department earlier this month announced the launch of “five cross-jurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces to help reduce violent crime by addressing illegal gun trafficking in significant firearms trafficking corridors.”

The five strike forces will “focus on significant firearms trafficking corridors that channel guns into New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.,” the Justice Department said, to be led by U.S. attorneys “who will coordinate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and with state and local law enforcement partners in places where firearms originate and where they are used to commit crimes.”

Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, speaks at a press conference responding to President Biden’s dispatching a federal task force to Chicago to stem gun violence. Tuesday, June 29, 2021. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Sandra Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, was also among those who spoke. Bland, 28, of Naperville was in Texas for a job interview in 2015 when she was pulled over by a state trooper for failing to signal a lane change. The traffic stop quickly escalated; police dashcam video shows trooper Brian Encinia drawing his stun gun and Bland laying on the ground screaming. She was found hanged three days later while still in custody; her death was ruled a suicide.

“People are pissed, people are tired and we are not playing games,” Reed-Veal said.

She also urged the president to come to the city.

“Mr. Biden, you know you need to be here. You’re going to send a task force to do what? How about you send a task force and tell the [U.S. Department of Justice] to do what they’re supposed to be doing in these cases,” Reed said.

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