SF Violence: Enough is enough

January 24, 2008 7:03:32 PM PST
Lawyers gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Thursday, demanding a crackdown on the growing homicide rate among African American men. The impetus for today's demonstration was the slaying of peace activist Terrel Rogers outside his daughter's high school basketball game.

Lawyer Jack Londen read 35 names of young African American men whose murders are still unsolved.

"It's unacceptable when in one community of our city, people can be killed with the justified perception that that could happen with impunity," says Londen.

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights believes African Americans are not being given equal protection under the law.

"We're asking for an official coordinated response to the epidemic of violence. It's a public health crisis," says Pamela Price, Price and Associates Law Firm.

The impetus of the rally was the murder of Terrel Rogers, who was shot to death two weeks ago near Sacred Heart High School. Rogers worked with troubled youngsters, primarily in Bayview- Hunters Point.

The news conference comes a day after police released statistics on the city's murder rate last year, which shows an increase in the deaths of Black and Latino men. There were 98 murders in the city last year, more than in 2006. Nearly three quarters of the victims were either Black or Latino men. It showed an even steeper climb among Latino men from the year before.

Police say they are making a concerted effort to get guns off the street since most of the victims were killed by firearms.

"We are making headway in the fact that the department takes between 1,100 and 1,200 guns off the streets of San Francisco every year and that's a huge number," says Steve Maninna, SFPD spokesman.

Pastor Ishmael Burch summed up the lawyers appeal for help this way.

"I have buried 72 young men who died by gun violence. I have attended 3,300 funerals right here in San Francisco of young men who died by gun violence."

Pastor Burch said the city's black neighborhoods are under siege.