Gang Leaders Want Jobs | NBC Chicago

Gang Leaders Want Jobs

Say gangs aren't the problem. Drugs and lack of opportunities are.

View Comments ()



    A member of the Vice Lords Nation says gang members will not be intimidated by "trick" meetings with police and says the real criminals are the bankers on Wall Street and the Ku Klux Klan. (Published Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010)

    It was billed as a response to Jody Weis' trick meeting with gang leaders.

    But the controversial gang press conference turned out to be an impassioned plea for jobs and opportunities for former gang members and inmates who say they can't find work.

    The event, which took place at 5701 W. Jackson Boulevard on Chicago's West Side was organized by former gang enforcer Wallace 'Gator" Bradley, who was at the meeting with Weis, and  community activist Jim Allen, a "free and accepted Almighty Minister" of the Vice Lords Nation.

    He and other self-described "gang leaders" said threats from law enforcement officials will not stem the violence on the streets, only good paying jobs can do that.

    "They say its about gangs, guns and drugs," Allen said. "We say it's about jobs, opportunities and contracts."

    "All we're saying here is, 'Can you help us?'  Stop putting the money in Iraq.  Stop putting the money if Afghanistan.  The war is right here.  We heard you.  Let these men get some work," added Akeem Berry Sr.

    Those holding rainy press conference said the threats won't change the behaviors of young gang members.

    "They're giving us an ultimatum to "quit"  instead of offering an alternative," said Berry.

    Other gang leaders expressed a measure of pride in their affiliations and said gangs are not the cause of the violence: drugs are.

    "You keep saying gang violence. It's drug-related. It's not gang-related. It's drug-related," said Berry.

    The news conference was criticized by the family members of those killed by violence and by anti-violence groups, including Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's Church.

    Mayor Richard Daley, speaking at another event, said that everyone has a right to free speech.

    "It's America.  You can complain about anything," he said.

    Late last month Police Supt. Jody Weis held a clandestine meeting with a number of gang leaders. During the meeting, Weis told the leaders his department would begin to pursue RICO statues against gang members who use violence against one another.

    RICO statutes allow for law enforcement officials to seize property, including vehicles and real estate, belonging to suspects. It was originally used to take down Mafia affiliates.

    Similar meetings have paid dividends in about 60 communities around the country.