The Chicago Police Department has taken some heat from the public and politicians for their secret meeting with Chicago's gang leaders in August. Some accused the department of "negotiating with urban terrorists," and now--the gang leaders themselves are criticizing the "gang summit."
According to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, the leaders gathered at 10 a.m. at the Columbus Park Refectory on the West Side "to denounce Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis' threats to crack down on gang leaders."
Members of the Vice Lords, Disciples, Kings, Stones, Hustlers, Souls and Cobras were reportedly on hand to share their concern with the public.
This bizarre press conference is a response to an alleged police department vow to make gang "leaders' lives miserable" at a secret August meeting. A source told the Sun-Times the police would be using RICO laws to do "everything from towing their cars for parking violations, to ramping up parole visits, to pulling them over repeatedly for traffic stops" if they did not stop the violence.
Weis and Mayor Daley came out in support of the police tactic, and the tactic has been used for decades to help reduce crime in other cities.
"It's a good concept," Daley said. "You know, sit down with anyone. We'll negotiate after the second world war. We'll negotiate with anyone to have peace. Even during the war. So sit down with anyone. If you save one life, if I can save your son's life, you want me to sit down with them."
But gang members on the West Side--which has been particularly violent this summer--feel the department took the wrong approach.
"The general feeling out here is that [the meeting] was a trick, and we feel it is unconstitutional for a person to be declared guilty before innocent," Jim Allen, a self-identified Vice Lord and convener of the news conference, told Mitchell.
Allen told Mitchell that police were blaming the wrong people for community violence, and that the gang members were told they had violated their parole when they were brought in for the gang summit--being ambushed and taken in by officers.
"When [President] Obama was senator, he said he was willing to sit down with terrorists without pre-conditions," Allen told Mitchell. "What about doing that on a local level? If you trick me into a meeting, then I am there against my will. You don't have to play games and trick people."
Another former gang member told Mitchell that gang leaders have tried talking with Weis and the department in the past about violence--but said they are not interested in "solving it from a community perspective."
In a press release, Allen accused the police threat to seize property and harass them as "nothing more then the continuation of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge style tactics of harassment!"
During Thursday's press conference, gang leaders said they needed jobs if police expect them to get off the streets.
"They say its about gangs, guns and drugs," Allen said, according to NBC Chicago. "We say it's about jobs, opportunities and contracts."
One Vice Lords Nation member also said that the people who caused the recession on Wall Street and the KKK are the real "gang bangers." (Video below)
But U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said law enforcement has no interest in bargaining with gang members.
"Anyone who thinks that anyone has a pass to commit crime in this city is wrong," Fitzgerald said, according to CBS 2 Chicago. "The federal government goes after drugs, guns and gangs. If people aren't involved in current violence, we'll still prosecute them for doing drugs. We're offering them nothing. . . We are sending them a message that they can understand that the more violent they are, the more of a target they are."WATCH part of today's gang press conference here: