UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told thousands of followers Sunday he was planning to reach out to gang leaders to help "protect" the Nation of Islam.
That came at the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day convention. Farrakhan, 79, renewed the call for African Americans to pool money and buy as much land as possible, in order to "control means of production" and produce food and other goods, such as clothing.
Farrakhan said collectively owning land is a way for black people in America to prosper economically. The calls were part of a speech that lasted more than three hours and touched on topics including Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and a national push for gun control.
Farrakhan told a crowd of more than 7,000 people at the UIC Pavilion that national lawmakers are using Chicago's violence epidemic to push for stronger gun control laws but said the Second Amendment has nothing to do with the spate of shootings in Chicago.
"The guns that every one of our young people have, are they legal? No!" Farrakhan said.
Instead, Farrakhan had a different idea for how to address gun violence. In addition to sending letters to black military leaders, Farrakhan said he planned to contact the city's gang leaders to recruit gang members to "protect" any land the Nation of Islam might buy in the future.
"All you gangbangers, we know you love to shoot, but you're killing yourselves," Farrakhan said. "All your weapons are illegal and you're using them like savages."
But Farrakhan said gangbangers are "natural soldiers" and could be taught "the science of war" to become protectors of the Nation of Islam's assets in the future.
On Monday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel weighed in on Farrakhan's gang plan.
"I don't think gang members are part of public safety," Emanuel said during a news conference. "They're the problem. And it's quite clear they're the problem."
Last summer, Farrakhan led 500 men known as the Fruit of Islam, who traditionally serve in his security detail, to the city's Auburn Gresham neighborhood in response to the spike in violence in the first half of 2012.
He praised the re-election of President Barack Obama as a significant historical milestone, but added that Obama's victory would not mean prosperity for black people.
Farrakhan also decried the death of Gadhafi, who was killed in 2011. He blamed the former Libyan leader's death on American and European governments, saying they wanted Gadhafi dead because he was an "impediment" to American and European interests having access to natural resources in Africa.
Farrakhan said he believes the American government also wanted to see black leaders like himself go away.
"You killed my brother [Gadhafi], and now you got the same thing in your mind for me," Farrakhan thundered as the crowd rose to its feet applauding. "You want to put your hands on me. In fact, you're plotting it as I'm speaking."
Regarding Hagel, Farrakhan said the Senate was holding up his confirmation because Hagel did not express unconditional support for Israel. He said Israeli lobbyists are applying pressure to senators to reject Hagel.
Farrakhan said the country needs a Defense secretary like Hagel, who will follow his own conscience.
Saviour's Day marks the Feb. 26, 1877, birthday of the Nation of Islam's founder, W. Fard Muhammad.