Anti-violence advocate pushes ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to ending youth violence

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(The Center Square) – Violence Interrupters Executive Director Tio Hardiman is urging an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to quelling the rising violence that has led to three Chicago Public Schools students being slain just steps from their school’s front doors over the past month.

“It’s time for a cultural shift right now,” Hardiman told The Center Square. “Violence is a normal way of thinking. There needs to be a cultural shift where all the academic people organize together to design a curriculum we can push to change the way we think about one another.”

In a string of deadly incidents, 16-year-old Senn High School student Daveon Gibson was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital after being hit in the chest when gunmen opened fire on a crowded street.

Just days earlier, 17-year-old Monterio Williams and 16-year-old Robert Boston were both gunned down in a Loop shooting near Millennium Park as they left the nearby Innovations High School they attended.

“Violence has become the norm,” Hardiman said. “The more brazen and the more outrageous the crime may be, it gets them some type of brownie points in the neighborhood in which they come from. A lot of young guys are being hunted down by individuals that stalk the social networks to find out where they’re going to be at one time or another. It’s all a part of the cycle of violence.”

In just the last month while working in several alternative high schools across the city, Hardiman said Violence Interrupters mediated at least four other conflicts that could have led to even more bloodshed.

“We specialize in stopping the killings,” he added. “We’re willing to work with anybody. I’m willing to collaborate. Chicago is my hometown and it’s time we reduce the homicide rate.”

Hardiman, who is also pushing for funding to be able to hire up to 1,000 teenagers across the city to join his group in working for peace, said he wishes Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson would have taken the time to consult with more people in the community before publicly throwing his support behind a plan to end having uniformed police officers in CPS high schools. With violence on the rise as it is, Hardiman said an all-hands-on deck approach is needed.

“We’re dealing with a gun violence epidemic,” Hardiman said. “When you have kids being shot right outside in front of the school and murdered like that it puts me in the mindset of how the mafia used to hit people in the old-school mafia days back in the 1930s when they ride up and kill people. I believe that decision to take the police out of the schools was not a real good decision.”

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