CHICAGO — On the weekend his grandson was shot to death, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis called on state, city and local authorities to declare a "state of emergency" in high crime, low-employment areas of the city.
Davis told POLITICO on Sunday that he does not want a paramilitary state, but a formal declaration that would allow resources to flow quickly into areas of the city that are facing a crisis of violence.
"I would call upon every unit of government to call a state of emergency need for these communities. So yes, I think we need immediate help. We don't need something that's going to take five or six years," Davis said. "There are many inner-city communities throughout Illinois, especially in the Chicago metropolitan area, that need this kind of economic and social development."
Davis said resources are needed immediately in areas where crime has reached the highest levels since the 1990s. The money would go toward boosting gang intervention, after-school programs, tutoring, job placement, mentor programs and economic development. Davis said some of the communities affected, including Englewood and North Lawndale, have 40 percent unemployment.
"In order to make that happen, the state of Illinois, the governor, would have to make such a determination. Same thing as the city council and the mayor. Individuals like myself can keep pushing," said the Illinois Democrat.
Davis' grandson, Javon Wilson, 15, was murdered on Friday after a dispute over gym shoes, according to police. On Sunday, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old were charged in the killing. Wilson was shot in the head in a dispute that stemmed from a clothing swap in which individuals swap clothing items and accessories, according to police. Davis questioned the flow of guns in the community as well as a lack of quality education options.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner are both in Rome attending the elevation of Blase Cupich from Roman Catholic archbishop to cardinal.
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"The governor and first lady send their deepest condolences to Congressman Davis and his family during this difficult time," said Rauner spokesman Andrew Flach.
The governor's office said no state or federal declaration exists outside of disaster declarations and a declaration of emergency would "be rhetorical with no practical implications," according to the governor's office.
Still, Davis said, all units of government could work together to make the declaration effective in a practical sense.
Davis responded to a tweet from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called for "federal action" following Davis' grandson's killing.
"Chicago so far has 3926 shot, 703 homicides this year with 6 weeks to go. Worse than Ferguson, etc. We must have federal plan to save lives," Gingrich wrote in one tweet.
He also wrote: "Chicagoans are Americans. Their civil rights matter. being killed ends your civil rights. City has failed. State has failed. Need US action."
Davis said if there is a federal remedy, it would be curbing availability of guns, including with increased enforcement and prosecution.
"I would agree with the former speaker in terms of it being a national problem. It is a national problem," Davis said of Gingrich. "It's not only in Chicago that kids are walking around with guns. What the federal government can do, especially as it relates to urban, inner-city America, is invest resources that would create jobs