(The Center Square) – Community members from Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood are calling for a response from leaders after a violent weekend with a child murdered and two others injured.
Reports indicate 1-year-old Zaiden Collins was found dead on April 22 on Chicago’s West Side after being beaten. The same day also saw another incident that resulted in a 6-year-old girl being shot in the arm in the 6600 block of S. Drexel Ave. and another where a 3-year-old boy was struck in the face by gunfire in the 8800 block of S. Euclid Ave.
Tio Hardiman of the community group Violence Interrupters hosted a news conference Monday and told The Center Square that he hopes to raise awareness of these events.
“The reason I was inspired to organize this particular press conference is because we need to bring attention to these kids that are being shot and killed in Chicago,” Hardiman said.
Two weeks ago, a large group of teenagers damaged property and caused violence in the Loop, leading to a significant response from media, lawmakers and community leaders.
Hardiman said the same response should be received in Lawndale.
“It makes no sense to just go downtown when you have a lot of killings right in the inner city,” Hardiman said. “When you have killings on the South and West side of Chicago, where is the outrage? Why are people not jumping up down? There should be 1,000 people out there in front of the location where the kid was killed.”
This past weekend, religious and other community leaders marched downtown as a presence ahead of any other similar gatherings of young people. There was also a large police presence in the tourist areas.
Hardiman said church officials should help bring awareness to acts of violence in other parts of the city.
“I support all the pastors and their efforts but I would like to see 500 men march over here to North Lawndale because someone killed this little 1-year-old baby,” Hardiman said.
After the violence in the Loop earlier this month, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said it was not right to look down on young people lashing out.
“In no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend,” Johnson said in Springfield last week. “It is unacceptable and has no place in our city. However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.”
Hardiman and others have criticized the future mayor for not being tough enough on crime.
“When the comment was made where we should not demonize our young kids, I understand that, but at the same time, you can not be so soft touching when it comes down to people who break the law,” Hardiman said.
Separately, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, told The Center Square that there needs to be a change in the approach to crime in these neighborhoods.
“I think that we need to figure out a way together to provide safety and support for people that are struggling,” Ford said. “I support tough love, but it has to be meaningful. We have to make sure that those young people that are displaying misbehavior in public places or anywhere, that we not only provide them with tough love but we also provide them with any resources they may need to deal with any challenges they are having.”
Chicago Police Department statistics show a 45% increase in total crime compared to last year.