The Rev. Al Sharpton Occupies the Corners

We caught up with Sharpton during his campaign to tackle rising violence in our streets.

Rev. Sharpton eulogizes Lloyd Morgan Jr. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Rev. Sharpton eulogizes Lloyd Morgan Jr. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Still, the candidates’ silence hasn’t stopped the human toll.

In July, 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan Jr. was fatally shot by a stray bullet while watching a basketball tournament in the South Bronx. The child’s death shook his family’s community and made Sharpton take notice.

“When I looked at that little casket of that little boy I said, ‘We’ve got to put a priority on this,’ ” he recalls.

Shortly after Morgan’s death, Sharpton requested a meeting with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss a solution to the violence, without success. An August New York Times story revealed that 80 percent of blacks felt that New York police favored whites, which coincided with stop-and-frisk statistics that blacks and Latinos are 85 percent of those targeted. In response, Sharpton and NAN began the Occupy the Corner movement on August 17.

As murder rates rise in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, New York City has seen a decline. Bloomberg and city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have pointed to stop and frisk as their weapon against violent crimes. Eleven years ago almost 2,000 people were killed in one year in New York City. Since then, the murder rate has decreased by 32 percent. On the other hand, shooting victims and incidents have risen within the last year by 2.8 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, where more than 250 people were killed in the first six months of this year, homicides have risen 38 percent. In Philadelphia, according to the police departments 2011 fiveyear report, a gun was used in 88 percent of homicides between 2007 and 2011, and the city has had a 23 percent rise in homicides in 2012 thus far.

The trend is especially troubling because it runs counter to what’s happening in the country as a whole. Nationally, the murder rate (xls) fell by 4 percent between 2009 and 2010, and there was a slight dip in murders involving a firearm (xls).

Meanwhile, back on the corner by Harlem’s Grant Houses, Sharpton announces three new phases of the OTC movement: Recruit artists like Sean “Diddy” Combs and others as cool currency to film ads against street violence; “occupy” schools by working with principals to patrol hallways and facilitate conflict resolutions among students; and raise money for the fight.

If gaining media attention is the goal, Occupy the Corners has been a moderate success. If tugging Bloomberg’s ear is the aim, Sharpton points to a recent phone conversation with the mayor during which contributing funds to the OTC was discussed. Either way, the movement’s nascent phase was a victory.

But as the cameras power down and Sharpton shakes hands with supporters, it remains to be seen whether these concerned locals will inspire a national movement capable of slaying the behemoth of gun violence in America.

The National Rifle Association, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Diddy were all approached for comment but had not responded as of press time.

Hillary Crosley is The Root‘s New York City bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter @HillaryCrosley.