Originally published by July 14, 2020 on Waging Nonviolence
As calls to defund police grow, peacemakers on the frontlines of Chicago’s gun violence epidemic have dramatically reduced homicides and shootings.
Imagine a world where after being accused of using a counterfeit bill, George Floyd was approached by a community member who helped mediate the situation, rather than the police officer who suffocated him as he begged for his life. A world where Rayshard Brooks was not murdered for falling asleep in his car in a Wendy’s parking lot, but given a ride home. A world where Elijah McClainwas not choked and injected with ketamine for “acting suspicious,” but simply asked by a neighbor how he was doing.
Those in power would have us believe that such a world is impossible — but for the past four years, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago has been providing a roadmap for what this radical reimagining of justice might look like.
For decades, Chicago has been plagued by gun violence, which has taken the lives of more than 350 people in the city this year. Nonviolence Chicago’s workers are guided by Martin Luther King’s principles and defuse conflict through mediation rather than by force. Whenever there is a shooting, outreach workers arrive at the scene within 30 minutes to advocate against retaliation — and even when they insert themselves in potentially dangerous situations, they do not wear bullet proof vests and refuse to carry weapons.