CHICAGO – The Rev. Al Sharpton gave a clearer picture of what he plans to do while living part time in Chicago, saying Sunday that he’ll highlight work neighborhood groups and local activists are doing to combat street violence.
“There are people in the trenches every day the nation needs to know about,” he said during a news conference in the city’s Austin neighborhood, a West Side pocket that has been hard hit with gun violence.
Sharpton, who heads the National Action Network, vowed in June to live in Chicago and mobilize in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., who rented an apartment in Chicago during the 1960s as the city was a central point for civil rights activism. But he never gave many details about exactly what he would be doing and plans were repeatedly delayed.
Sharpton said Sunday that he will rent an apartment from the Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist and stay in Chicago one or two days a week. His appearance capped off a morning of preaching at Trinity United Church of Christ, a prominent church on Chicago’s South Side where President Barack Obama once attended services. Sharpton also planned to promote his new memoir with book signings throughout the city.
Sharpton said he had been in contact with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has pushed gun control measures as a way to combat street violence along with multiple policing strategies.
Sharpton added that while it wasn’t his main focus, he planned to scrutinize authorities. Sharpton has been a vocal critic of the New York City Police Department, including blasting its stop-and-frisk policy.
“I’m known to question a lot of police work and I will,” he said.
Chicago’s homicide rate is down slightly when compared with last year when there were more than 500 killings, but the city’s rate remains high when compared with among other large U.S. cities. Sharpton said community activists and pastors might be trying successful tactics in Chicago neighborhoods that could be applied elsewhere.
Anti-violence advocates – including the group Cure Violence – have said they welcome Sharpton’s work in Chicago and that any attention to the problem would be helpful.