Sunday, November 29, 2009

7293: Bounty Billboards.

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Radical idea on target in the fight for justice

It may be sad. It may be distasteful. It may be extreme.

But it is still worth doing.

Last week, 20 billboards went up across the South and West Sides offering $5,000 rewards for information leading to the conviction of criminals who have shot or killed “our children.”

“Shoot or kill our children?” the billboard boldly asks. “You will be caught!”

Chicagoans are urged to call in anonymously with tips.

The billboards are the handiwork of the outspoken priest of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, and his supporters.

Count us as one of them.

After three decades of community activism, Pfleger knows that Chicagoans—fearful of retribution, of the police, of being labeled a “snitch”—don’t regularly report what they know about shootings in their neighborhoods.

If the violence is ever going to slow, this must change.
“It should not be acceptable that someone shoot or kill a child and then go to McDonald’s or go home and watch TV,” Pfleger told us.

“I don’t think shooters are afraid of the police, but I think they have to be afraid of the community,” he said.

The billboards went up Wednesday in neighborhoods where students have been killed.

That day, the phone at Pfleger’s Auburn Gresham church office began ringing.

It was just a handful of calls, but it was a start.

“If we can turn the tide a little and it starts to become acceptable [to report], it’ll be a ripple affect,” he said. “Now it’s a ripple effect not to do anything.”

Building a network of people who speak up helps Chicago neighborhoods and the victims’ families, most of whom never see anyone brought to justice.
Already this school year, 78 students have been shot and 12 have died.

Pfleger knows as well as anyone that the billboards should be just one piece of a multi-layered solution to quelling violence. And like the rest of us, he wishes Chicagoans would step up just because it’s the right thing to do.

“Yes, people should just do right to do right,” Pfleger said.

“But the reality is we have a culture of disconnectedness, of fear, so we have to take radical means to try to create the turnaround of responsibility and connectedness,” he said.

If you know anything, if you want to do more than bemoan the violence, Father Pfleger is waiting for your call: (773) 483-4300.

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