Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson call for a ban on assault weapons, which he says is needed to end the recent wave of violence in San Francisco’s urban communities.
At the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, across the street from the violence-plagued Friendship Village apartment complex in The City’s Western Addition, Jackson rallied for an expired federal ban on assault weapons to be reinstated, saying America needs to shift its attention from the Iraq war to the rising gun violence here.
“We think it’s intelligent to stop the supply of guns in Iraq, but it’s OK to supply them here,” hesaid. “Last year, we lost more children under 12 years old to gun violence than all the soldiers killed in Iraq in the last four years.”
Jackson’s visit to San Francisco comes on the heels of a violent crime wave in some of The City’s poorest communities. Most recently, on Saturday night, two people were shot in the Tenderloin neighborhood in a suspected gang-related attack, police said. Both victims are expected to survive, but no suspects have been identified in connection with the shootings, police said.
Last month, six teenage boys were wounded in two related shootouts between rival street gangs in the Western Addition. A few days later, a 15-year-old boy was gunned down while standing on a street corner in the Mission district. A few days after that, a 20-year-old man was shot to death about a mile away.
Community members and city officials have protested the violence, holding neighborhood rallies and calling for more resources for young people.
Claudette Antoine, who was born and raised in the Western Addition, came to listen to Jackson Sunday, hoping he would have suggestions for keeping children from heading down the wrong path. She is now struggling to raise four children, ages 11 to 18, in the same neighborhood.
Antoine used to freely traverse The City’s vibrant neighborhoods when she was a teenager. She would head to the Bayview, Mission and Sunnydale districts to play sports, do arts and crafts and hang out with friends. That would not happen today, she said.
“My son can’t go to one block because of the violence,” Antoine said. “It’s a constant worry. As soon as you hear gunshots, you have to call to make sure they’re all right.”
Others on Sunday shared stories of loss.
Gloria Rice, who traveled from the East Bay to attend the rally, wore a white T-shirt with her late son’s photo and carried a large portrait of him. Her son, Guy Rice, was shotand killed Sept. 18 near his home in the Excelsior district. He was 27 and left behind a 4-year-old son.
Rice said her son’s murder remains unsolved. She is part of a San Francisco healing circle made up of parents whose children have been killed. Members of the group stood next to Jackson onstage while he spoke to the crowd.
“I’m trying to help people learn,” Rice said. “When you kill somebody, you don’t just kill one person, you kill a whole family.”