The call was made at this week's Rainbow PUSH Saturday Morning Forum. "These are Baghdad numbers," said Rev. Jackson referring to statistics indicating that 508 Chicago Public School students were shot and killed from September 2007 through December 2008. "This is a state of emergency. Our neighborhoods are under siege."
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law a ban on assault rifles which outlawed the manufacture and possession of certain makes of automatic weapons. The law expired in 2004.
The latest youth to fall victim to gun violence is 14-year-old Gregory Robinson who was shot and killed Friday night in Morgan Park on the city's far south side.
"Don't allow this violence to hit your home before you decide to do something about it," said Willa Pitts, mother of Carnell and Kendrick Pitts, brothers who were shot and killed within a week of one another. "There are more of us who are against these guns, drugs and gangs than there are for them."
Alderman Sandi Jackson (4th Ward) asked Mayor Richard Daley to use federal stimulus money to help certain Chicago neighborhoods struggling with dramatic cases of violence, unemployment and home foreclosure.
"This money can fill in the gaps and provide some opportunity," Jackson said. "We have to get these resources down to the people. Right now is the tipping point. Right now is the time we have to demand the things we need and deserve. The squeaky wheel is the one that gets the oil. We have to be that squeaky wheel."
Jackson's comments came in response to Daley's recent announcement that he plans on spending the $1 billion in federal stimulus money destined for Chicago on transportation, education and public housing initiatives.
Another portion of the live international broadcast of Saturday Morning Forum featured Jonathan Jackson, Rainbow PUSH Coalition's national spokesman, being honored by former jail prisoners for his work on his Truth and Justice campaign, which seeks to exonerate innocent inmates. Johnnie Savory, David Bates, Anthony Holmes, and Darryl Cannon collectively spent more than 100 years in prison for crimes that DNA evidence later showed they did not commit.
"He has made a difference for all of those who have not had a voice," said Savory. "He is truly our hero here on earth. He is a drum major for justice."
Next week, Savory, who was wrongly convicted in 1977 of a double murder at the age of 14, will board a plane for the first time in his life and head to Houston to attend a gathering for the Innocence Network Conference which provides pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals who have been wrongly convicted of crimes.
Finally, Rev. Jackson also used the broadcast to continue rallying support for a reduction in interest rates on student loans-rates that can burden graduates with debt for years. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition has launched a new website, www.reducetherate.org, that educates students and parents on the problem, and encourages them to join the initiative to reduce the rates
"This may be the biggest fight of our time," he said. "Students who have the grades and ability to do well in college are being sent home because they cannot afford to pay their tuition bill."
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366