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Rev. Jesse Jackson: Chicago Needs Better Witness Protection Program

By Kyla Gardner | February 2, 2013 4:58pm

KENWOOD — A culture of fear provides killers in Chicago with a sanctuary that won't be overcome until the city has a better way of ensuring witnesses will be protected, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said during a rally against gun violence Saturday.

Standing underneath the park canopy where Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot dead Tuesday, the Rainbow/PUSH coalition leader pleaded for someone to turn in the gunman.

"The killer may be at the funeral, for all we know...because the killer is being provided a sanctuary." Jackson said.

That sanctuary is a culture of fear of retaliation, especially when witnesses find out they have to testify in front of the person in court, Jackson said.

He led a march from King College Prep, where Hadiya was a student, to Vivian Gordon Harsh Park, where she was fatally shot Saturday afternoon.

More than 100 community members attended the rally, some carrying signs that read "Stop the killing," and "Revive the ban on assault weapons."

Donna Hall walked next to Jackson carrying a picture of her slain son Marshall D. Fields-Hall. The 21-year-old was fatally shot Jan. 18 inside a Popeye's Chicken restaurant, and his murder remains unsolved.

Hakeem Leverette, a freshman at Gary Comer College Prep, carried a sign that read “RIP Hadiya” on the march.

The teen said it was difficult “seeing people my age being killed by gun violence.”

His friend Tyquan Tyler, 13, was gunned down in Chicago in January 2012.

Iraq war veteran Brian McRae, 33, attended the rally because Chicago's violence problem is "terrible."

“For me to come home and sustain the same violence I sustained over there, it’s ridiculous," he said.

Earlier Saturday, Jackson said Chicago's "urban crisis" stems from unemployment and the flow of drugs and guns.

Jackson said Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to reassign 200 cops from desk duty to the streets is a good plan, but the problem is larger than Emanuel or Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

"It's bigger than they are," he said. "...We need federal intervention."

Jackson also called for President Barack Obama to come to Chicago to show support.

"The president's power, without any legislation or money... shows ultimate national seriousness," he said.