Al Sharpton in Chicago: Some Hope Among the Skepticism

As the national leader prepares to host a town hall meeting, community activists are split on whether he can help stop the bloodshed.

The Rev. Al Sharpton John Moore/Getty Images

Part of the suspicion toward authority stems from the days when officers, working under infamous Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge, were accused of torturing mostly black suspects into false confessions and torturing witnesses into falsely implicating people in crimes. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling it a “dark chapter” in the city’s history, has apologized.

Emanuel, for his part, is pleased that Sharpton is helping to battle crime in the city.

“We welcome Rev. Sharpton and anyone else who will partner with us and help elevate the conversation around the need for sensible laws that keep illegal guns out of our communities and out of the hands of criminals,” Tarrah C. Cooper, Emanuel’s press secretary, told The Root in an email statement. “Our [police] officers partner closely with ministers, block clubs, community leaders and residents every day through the CAPS [Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy] program and through a return to community policing because we all have a role to play in the safety of our city. While crime is down this year, there’s more work to be done, and no one will rest until everyone in this city enjoys the same sense of safety.”

But not all leaders are rolling out the welcome wagon. At a breakfast meeting Sharpton held in mid-November at Chicago State University with more than 70 community leaders and elected officials, a number of key names were noticeably absent, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.; the Rev. James Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church; the Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginning Church; and Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, who sent a representative, DNAinfo reports.

Alderman Anthony Beale, whose South Side ward encompasses Roseland, where Obama served as a community organizer, expressed skepticism to DNAinfo Chicago about Sharpton’s move, although he said that he welcomes the reverend’s suggestions. “I am not going to allow somebody to come in a couple days and think they are going to make a difference and then leave us with the problems we are faced with every single day,” Beale said.

Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor at The Root. The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.