by Starla Muhammad and Tariqah Muhammad
The Final Call @TheFinalCall
CHICAGO—Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said if asked, he would deploy the National Guard to the city of Chicago to combat violence. The governor’s comment was in response to a question about a statement from a political rival who called on the Democratic lawmaker to issue a disaster declaration in the city to deal with crime and shootings plaguing the third largest city in America.
Using the National Guard in urban areas to fight crime and violence is nothing new but it is a call that has been resoundingly rejected by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam who warn such a move is part of the government’s plot in targeting the Black community and particularly Black youth.
Black youth have been marked for death by the U.S. government, the Minister has continuously warned.
“Our community, and Black youth in particular, are about to become the victims of a conspiracy emanating from the government of the United States that is designed to bring about the destruction of our youth,” Min. Farrakhan stated in a message titled, “Revealing the Conspiracy: Youth, Gangs, Violence and Drugs.”
“I say it again, the government of the United States of America is planning an assault on the Black community, specifically aimed at our youth. And the conspiracy is so deep and so diabolical that many of you will not even believe that at this very moment that I am talking to you, your lives hang in the balance, whether you are living in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, or any city in America.
Black youth, particularly Black young men, are at risk today, and unknowingly, brothers, you are playing into the hands of your enemy, and he is using you to set up your destruction and using the fear and the pain of your mothers to call for your destruction,” the Minister added. The Muslim leader has also warned that the U.S. will deploy the National Guard and its other military forces to combat civil unrest or uprisings in cities.
The Minister also teaches that saving the youth is one of the solutions to solving the violence that plagues America’s Black and Brown communities.
“Our youth don’t have to lie around here thinking that there is no hope. There’s plenty of hope! But we’ve got to go back home now and begin to change the way we think and the way we act,” he said.
According to Block Club Chicago, there have been 971 shootings through May of this year, compared to 1,151 for the same time period in 2021 and 961 in 2020, according to police numbers. In 2019, there were 736 shootings in that same period.
While Chicago crime and its impact on the lives of residents, particularly Black and Brown citizens, is deeply concerning and must be addressed, there are questions if politics are at play.
Gov. Pritzker is running for a second term with elections slated for November. His Republican opponent Jesse Sullivan on his official campaign website called for the governor to “declare a state of emergency and bring out the National Guard to help our undermanned and outgunned police department.” Mr. Sullivan released his statement in the aftermath of three law enforcement officers being shot and wounded in the city.
“Well, I think you know that I have called up the National Guard whenever local mayors that I’ve spoken to have wanted that done, have needed that done in their local communities,” Gov. Pritzker said at a June 6 news conference. “And I’ll continue to make the National Guard available whenever it is necessary.”
In 2020, the governor ordered the National Guard to Chicago to support police while many protests erupted after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. The following year, during the murder trial of one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, Gov. Pritzker sent the National Guard at the request of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in case protests became violent.
The Final Call contacted the mayor’s office multiple times for a response to Gov. Pritzker’s latest comments but received no response.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters that the National Guard has limited policing powers and cannot enforce local laws, state laws. “They are obviously a supplement to the military branch, so they are under military use of force policies. They aren’t under any of our consent decree policies that we are—created regarding search, seizure, stops or anything—so a very limited use of the National Guard.
And I would just say a word to the wise of those trying to fit National Guard into a policing role; they’re not under a policing model to be able to enforce state law or municipal law. For example, (they) couldn’t stop and arrest people for drug, gun possession; all of the things that we are focused on in protecting the people of Chicago the National Guard is just not suited to do,” Supt. Brown told reporters June 8.
“We need them for crowd control, obviously for protecting facilities … protecting groups of people in a large protesting environment. They’re really good at traffic control, blocking streets … we used them in the Summer of 2020 to block off the downtown from people who would come and loot … it’s just a careful utilization of the National Guard given their military supplemental role that they play,” he said. He cautioned those calling for the National Guard for local policing matters.
“I know it’s a good headline for others to say but they can’t enforce the laws that we need enforced in this city to protect the people of Chicago. They’re not a public safety arm per se, they’re a military arm in our supplementary military.”
Local activists argue there are other solutions and methods that must be utilized other than deploying military forces.
Hip-Hop Detoxx co-founder Enoch Muhammad said bringing in the National Guard will make matters worse in the Black community which is disproportionately affected by violence. “How do you deal with the trauma that has been generationally passed down?” he asked. “When you get consistent with disinvestment and mishandling of the public funds towards bettering an area generation after generation, you’re basically investing in what you don’t like,” he told The Final Call.
Mr. Muhammad and other grassroots activists and groups said the key to solving the problem of violence is investing in programs that help young people and economic investment in poor neighborhoods and underserved communities. Hip-Hop Detoxx is a public health organization dedicated to helping improve the lives of Chicago-area youth through such initiatives as conflict resolution and much more.
Like many grassroots groups, getting access to funding and resources to continue their work is challenging.
Gov. Pritzker’s handling of funds earmarked to curb violence was heavily scrutinized after it was reported that his administration was sitting on millions of dollars that was supposed to go toward anti-violence efforts.
According to a report by WBEZ 91.5, Chicago’s NPR affiliate, in April of this year, Gov. Pritzker’s administration only spent $56,764—less than one percent—of the $50 million designated for violence prevention. Illinois State Representative LaShawn Ford told WBEZ that “people are dying” and that the state government was just “sitting on the money.”
The Final Call attempted to find out if more of the designated money to help in violence prevention has been distributed to those working on solutions to the problems and contacted Gov. Pritzker’s office concerning the funds but did not receive a response.
“Someone asked me ‘why are the young people going downtown?’ and (I said) downtown is the only place they feel safe. How dare we talk about our children and violence without talking about the violence of the government? I think the point of the finger of violence is in our government and how we neglected Black and Brown and poor communities in this country,” said Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church located on the city’s South Side. He and his congregation have worked for years in the community holding anti-violence programs and events for young people.
Father Pfleger said he was disappointed in Governor Pritzker’s comments regarding deploying the National Guard to Chicago if asked.
“I was really disappointed in that because before he said he would not, and several times I commended him for that. My fear is that it changed because obviously his opponents are playing that song, that ‘hard on crime,’ ‘lock everybody up.’ There are some who are very good at instilling that the only way we can be safe is by locking people up. They have marketed their tactics very well. So many people have bought into it. … We don’t need the National Guard; they’re trained for war,” said the activist priest.
“What we do need is to take charge of our community, become the neighbors again that take care of each other. We need to empower people and our blocks and homes,” he added.
“How dare America talk about making people safe when this country was founded on genocide!”