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We’ll stop our thuggery – only if you give us some jobs! Via CBS 2 – Chicago:
At a news conference organized by self-identified gang members Thursday morning, several speakers complained that police and city officials do not respect them, and that the only way to curb violence is to provide jobs and improve their community.
The self-described current and former gang members held a news conference at the Columbus Park Refectory, at 5701 W. Jackson Blvd. on the city’s West Side.
“You say it’s gangs, drugs and guns. We say we need jobs, opportunities and contracts,” said Reginald Akeem Berry Sr., who identified himself as a former gang member. “That’s the resolution.”
They are taking issue with police Supt. Jody Weis’ strategy of meeting with gang leaders and warning them of serious consequences if violence continues.
Weis held a meeting with the reputed leaders of several West Side gangs at the Garfield Park Conservatory over the weekend. At the meeting, prosecutors warned that the gang members could be charged under the federal racketeering laws if killings were traced back to gangs with members attending the meeting.
But at the news conference, the speakers said the city should be working to place young African-American men in jobs, particularly those with criminal records who have paid their debt to society.
“The problem with them is that they’re giving us an ultimatum – quit – instead of an alternative. But we’re offering these young men an alternative, saying, ‘Get off the corner selling these bags, and come to this construction site and pick up this brick,” Akeem Berry said.
Another speaker, Barrion Dupree El, 34, identified himself as a member of the Conservative Vice Lords, and said he has pride in his affiliation.
“It wasn’t to tear down our community. It was to uplift the fallen stages of humanity,” he said.
All the speakers said repeatedly that they do not condone the violence in the community and “gang banging” and want to stop it. But they argued that gangs are not the cause of the violence.
“You keep saying gang violence. It’s drug-related. It’s not gang related. It’s drug related,” Akeem Berry said.