City leaders, activists react to Trump's discussion with Ohio pastor about violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- President Donald Trump's discussion with a Cleveland pastor about combating Chicago's violence is baffling leaders in the city.

The pastor said that former gang leaders had contacted him about helping reduce the murder rate.

There is still lots of talk about that meeting in Washington and President Trump's preoccupation with violence in Chicago. The FBI said the murder rate in Chicago is only the 17th highest among American cities population 250,000 or more.

"When I saw the gentleman from Cleveland say what he said, I said this is an opportunity," Phillip Jackson, a Black Star Project member, said.

At the Black Star Project, activists differed on how to react to the Cleveland pastor who told Trump former gang leaders had contacted him for a "sit-down" on ways to reduce "the body count" in Chicago.

"Why would a guy in Ohio be more credible than someone in Chicago? That's total disrespect of the community," Frances Newman, an activist, said.

"His hometown of Cleveland has a higher per capita murder rate than Chicago," Jackson said.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin also responded to who the Trump administration talks to about Chicago violence.

"I don't believe that some pastor from Ohio or Steve Harvey from family feud is going to save the city of Chicago," Sen. Durbin said.

President Trump described Chicago as "totally out of control." Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spoke at Thursday's police graduation would not take question. The City Council Public Safety Committee chairman blamed politics for Trump bypassing the mayor on the issue.

"He needs to deal with our mayor. We have the right program in place. We need some federal dollars," Ald. Ariel Reboyras of the 30th ward said.

"Talking to gang members is not a new strategy. We talk to them every day," CPD superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

"Business as usual will not work. It's never worked. And it's never going to work," Mark Carter, an activist, said.

Back at the Black Star Project others were encouraged by Trump's interest in Chicago. Interest, they said, that did not happen during the Obama years.

"We have an opportunity to bring a sitting President into Chicago and make some change, bring some resources into Chicago then we welcome those resources whether they come from Republicans or Democrats," Carter said.

The activists ABC 7 spoke to are expecting at the very least a White House sponsored visit to Chicago later this month.

They said they'd most appreciate a tour of violence-wracked neighborhoods by the president himself.

Last week, President Trump tweeted he would "send in the Feds" if the city's violence problems don't improve.
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