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Chicago Youth Impels ‘Increase The Peace’ Campaign to Combat Violence

Gun violence plagues Chicago, a city of more than 2.7 million, where nearly 2,000 people have been shot so far this year

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Increase the peace campaign
Chicago Youths Hope to 'Increase the Peace' to Combat Violence. VOA
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  • More than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year in Chicago due to Gun Violence
  • Instead of gunshots, drumbeats and chants fill the air as a man leads a group of young people, on a protest march to “increase the peace”
  • Carlos and Geiger both realize that marches and backyard cookouts can only go so far

July 17, 2017: When he woke July 5 to news that more than 100 people had been shot in the city of Chicago over the long Independence Day holiday weekend — 15 of them fatally — 16-year-old Carlos Yanez shrugged it off.

“After a while, you just get used to it,” Carlos said. “I mean, what can you do? We don’t have no one helping us. What can we do?”

Gun violence plagues Chicago, a city of more than 2.7 million, where nearly 2,000 people have been shot so far this year.

Though the number of shootings is slightly down from last year, the problem has caught the attention of the Trump administration, which has ordered more federal agents to assist state and local law enforcement in the Midwestern city. But Carlos said an increased police presence and a national spotlight on the violence have not helped those living in these South Chicago neighborhoods.

 

Increase the peace
Rev. Al Sharpton stands with clergy and responds to a question during a news conference, July 13, 2017, in Chicago, where concerns were voiced over the announcement that more federal agents will be sent to Chicago without serious meetings with community leaders. VOA

‘Gets worse and worse’

“It’s been going on and it just gets worse and worse,” he said, the resignation clear in his voice. “Chicago’s broke, CPS (Chicago Public Schools) is broke and yet they are funding all these cameras on every street corner, all these speed bumps, all these turnabouts. All these new cop cars, all this new equipment, but yet they still can’t fix the violence.”

It is violence Carlos himself has narrowly avoided. He said even though he’s not affiliated with a gang, he’s dodged bullets five times. Many of those around him have been injured, or died.

“Just a couple of months ago, a 28-year-old man was killed right on this block,” said Berto Aguayo, standing outside a church in the predominantly Hispanic Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

Aguayo is a community organizer with The Resurrection Project, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, is trying to work at the grassroots level to combat the violence.

“I lived two blocks away from here. I was a gang member in this community back in my younger days. I’ve lost friends to gang violence. I lost my first friend when I was 13 years old. And that’s a typical story of people here on the South Side of Chicago. Death is a constant fear.”

But on a balmy Friday evening, fear seems far away from these streets in the neighborhood Aguayo grew up in.

Increase the peace
Participants march for peace in a prayer walk, April 14, 2017, through one Chicago neighborhood hit hard by gun violence, the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. VOA

‘Increase the peace’

Instead of gunshots, drumbeats and chants fill the air as he leads a group, mostly of young people, on a protest march to “increase the peace.”

“This idea originated back in October 2016, when a 16-year-old girl was killed in front of our office,” Aguayo explained. “It became a point of the community being fed up. Young people were fed up with the violence they were witnessing.”

He said that became a catalyst for the Increase the Peace campaign.

“Youth decided, hey, why don’t we camp out on a street corner on a Friday night that is usually plagued by violence on a Friday night. What we try to do here is really stay on a block, and have a positive presence, and promote peace through our young people,” Aguayo said.

“It’s bringing people together, not ostracizing anyone,” Deztinee Geiger said. “The ostracization is what causes people to pick up a gun a lot of the time.”

Geiger is one of the youth leaders of this event at St. Joseph’s church, the first of several planned for Fridays this summer throughout different neighborhoods.

‘Respond with positive energy’

Carlos, the 16-year-old who also is one of the youth organizers of the Increase the Peace campaign, said the message is simple: “You don’t always have to respond with violence. You can respond with positive energy.”

But Carlos and Geiger both realize that marches and backyard cookouts can only go so far.

“The root of the problem is lack of resources, which results in violence,” Geiger said. “So therefore to fix the fact that violence exists, you have to fix the fact that there are a lack of resources.”

One resource Geiger thinks would help is a youth or community center, so those most at risk have a permanent place to go for positive activities. But with or without those resources, Geiger said the primary goal is to “change the narrative” of the violence shaping the city.

“I don’t think the violence will shape us. I think the leadership by young people is going to shape us. I think that what’s beautiful about this is that it’s not focused on violence,” Geiger said.

But it is violence that continues. On the weekend Geiger spoke to VOA, 41 people were shot in the city, three fatally, underscoring the need to “increase the peace.” VOA

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Trump meets Florida school shooting survivors, suggests arming teachers

The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers

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The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.
The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers. Wikimedia Commons

US President Donald Trump met survivors and families of the victims that were killed in the Florida school shooting and suggested that teachers and staff members should be provided with arms to avert such massacres, the media reported.

Trump’s comment came during a White House “listening session” on Wednesday which was attended by families and students including six survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old man Nikolas Cruz armed with an assault rifle killed 17 people on February 14, reports CNN.

The event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence.

“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20 per cent of their teachers to stop “maniacs” who may try and attack them.

Also Read: Is Donald Trump’s presidency turning out to be a reward for Trump Jr.?

“This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone,” Trump said. “Gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us’.”

The event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence.
The event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence. Wikimedia Commons

Acknowledging that the idea was controversial, Trump said that his administration would give it serious study.

The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.

Trump’s idea of arming teachers and school staff was met with support from many of the attendees, CNN reported.

Fred Abt, the father of Parkland shooting survivor Carson Abt, said he had discussed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that rather than waiting for first responders to arrive, it would be more efficient to have firearms locked on school campuses.

Also Read: Daughter of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump to celebrate Diwali in a Hindu Temple in the US

“One possible solution, which may not be very popular, would be to have people in the school, teachers, administrators who have volunteered to have a firearm safely locked in the classroom who are given training throughout the year,” he said.

“There are plenty of teachers who are already licensed to carry firearms, have them raise their hands to volunteer for the training, and when something like this starts, the first responders are already on campus.

Andrew Pollack, a father of one of the 17 victims who died in the Florida shooting, said he was speaking because his daughter couldn’t.

“We as a country failed our children…

This shouldn’t happen.”

The President, flanked by the students, went around the room and shook hands before commencing the session.

Also Read: DACA is a Bold Welcome Step by President Trump

Trump also later tweeted he would “always remember” the event, adding “we must keep our children safe”.

“I will always remember the time I spent today with courageous students, teachers and families,” he tweeted, along with a link to the full event.

“So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!” (IANS)