Trump Has A ‘Fetish With Chicago,’ Says Local Anti-Violence Leader

Tamar Manasseh at WBEZ studios
Tamar Manasseh at WBEZ studios in October 2017. Jason Marck/WBEZ
Tamar Manasseh at WBEZ studios
Tamar Manasseh at WBEZ studios in October 2017. Jason Marck/WBEZ

Trump Has A ‘Fetish With Chicago,’ Says Local Anti-Violence Leader

A prominent local activist accused President Donald Trump of acting like “Yosemite Sam” when it comes to curbing gun violence and improving the lives of Chicagoans.

“The campaign, as well as his administration, they seem to have almost a fetish with Chicago,” Tamar Manasseh said Tuesday on Morning Shift.

“I know it’s a big, beautiful city, but lord — goodness gracious — they’re almost obsessed with it.”

Manasseh, who founded the anti-violence organization Mothers Against Senseless Killings, recently wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that describes how her organization takes a bottom-up approach to counteracting gun violence.

In a conversation with Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia, Manasseh talked about how she’s planning to fight gun violence moving forward and the president’s rhetoric. Below are highlights from their conversation.

On Trump’s focus on Chicago

Tamar Manasseh: I don’t know how we manage to get into every conversation. Perhaps it’s because this is Barack Obama’s home city. Maybe it’s because we wouldn’t let him have his rally here when he was campaigning.

You know he’s an axe-grinder. So we don’t know, but it really bothers me that he does that, especially with all of the people in this city who do so much hard work to turn it around. The president constantly harps on how terrible Chicago is but he doesn’t even come here.

On the president’s rhetoric

Manasseh: Honestly, this dude is like Yosemite Sam. Like, you can’t really expect him to figure prominently into any real, actual conversation — any meaningful conversation — that’s going to actually do anything to really improve lives for people on the South and West sides of Chicago.

This president is not concerned with that. Period. Not at all. He’s all about the chaos. He’s all about the next deflection or the next distraction. So we have serious work to do in Chicago. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago. We don’t have time to concern ourselves with the show, the circus, in Washington. We just don’t.

On finding solutions outside the political system

Manasseh: Any change that we see in this city — and I think maybe at this moment in this country — is going to come from the bottom up. It’s not going to be a top-down thing. It’s going to be a bottom-up change.

And so while I spent the first couple of years trying to really engage with elected officials, that really didn’t get us anywhere. It really didn’t do all that much. So we had to get creative and we had to start thinking about ways that we could do things on our own so we could become more self-sufficient.

On her future plans for fighting the city’s gun violence

Manasseh: We’re going to start building community centers — but we’re building pocket community centers. Instead of these really large structures in different neighborhoods where kids can come and play, we’re building micro-community centers in vacant lots, in neighborhoods that have an abundance of vacant lots.

We feel like sometimes when you build these big structures in these neighborhoods, only 20 or 25 kids can have access to it because other kids can’t cross gang boundaries to get into them. And so if you put smaller ones in more places, it’s more accessible to the children in the neighborhood, and therefore you can serve more children.

Our flagship will be 75th and Stewart, but we’re looking at other spaces all throughout the city, especially on the South and West sides.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was adapted for the web by producer Justin Bull.