After a particularly bloody weekend in Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger pointed to Gov. Bruce Rauner's declared budget cuts as a future obstacle in stemming the violence.
"With all these state cuts taking place in this city, all the jobs that are not going to be there, the programs are not going to be there, I think it’s frightening what’s ahead of us right now in this city," Pfleger, the pastor at St. Sabina Church, told NBC Chicago.
Among the programs that were cut off from state funding under the executive order Gov. Rauner issued in February is the Illinois anti-violence program CeaseFire, which treats violence as a public health issue. The program is active in Chicago, but 60 percent of the $4.7 million budget allocated to the program will be cut, according to Crain's Chicago Business. This measure puts an end to much of CeaseFire's program activities.
Bob Jackson, the head of the CeaseFire program in the Roseland neighborhood, compared Chicago's violence problem to Iraq, alluding to Spike Lee's much talked about upcoming film "Chiraq," which is set to be filmed in Englewood this summer.
"(Chicago is) actually living up to what (Lee) was saying that the war in Iraq, we have as many shootings here in the city of Chicago as there are in Iraq," Jackson said.
Between 5 p.m. Friday and 12 a.m. Monday, one person was killed and at least 38 others were injured in shootings in Chicago, most of them on the city's South and West Sides.
By Pfleger's count, there were 49 shootings in Chicago over the weekend. The South Side pastor took to Facebook and Twitter Monday decrying the uptick in violence. Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel focused almost exclusively on violence and how it's affecting Chicago's youth during his inauguration speech at the Chicago Theatre Monday morning.
"We’ve got to fight Springfield to say you’ve got to put some of this money back," Pfleger said. "We can’t abandon our youth and wonder why spikes in violence are going on. They’re connected."
Pfleger and Jackson are encouraging Chicagoans to take a stand for themselves and their communities and contact political and community leaders to rally for a change. This message oddly mirrored Emanuel's inauguration message to the people of Chicago when he told them to do their part, too.
"Contact your churches, contact your pastors," Jackson said. "You're not comfortable contacting us? Contact somebody in the community. We must not have 50 or 49 shootings every weekend. This is madness."