MARKHAM, Ill. – The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday asked for a jury trial on trespassing charges stemming from his June arrest outside a gun shop where he was demonstrating in support of tougher gun laws.
A Cook County Circuit Court judge set a Nov. 26 trial for Jackson, 65, and the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest who oversees a South Side congregation. Both were arrested and charged with criminal trespass to property June 23 after they refused to move away from the entrance to Chuck's Gun Shop in Riverdale, just south of Chicago.
The men, prompted by the nearly three dozen public school students killed in Chicago during the last year, have held several protests at the gun shop to call for stricter gun laws. They say the shop's proximity to Chicago provides gang members and criminals easy access to firearms.
Jackson told reporters after his court appearance that he plans to escalate his protests against the gun industry and wouldn't be deterred by the threat of jail.
The issue of gun violence gained momentum in May after the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old honor student on a Chicago Transit Authority bus. Blair Holt was killed when a gunman opened fire. Two teens have been charged as adults with taking part in the shooting, which police said was gang-related. Holt was not the intended target.
The spate of student deaths has inspired growing community movements to quell inner-city violence.
Last month, Chicago's largest-ever gun turn-in program netted more than 6,700 weapons. The daylong event at 23 churches was so popular that police ran out of the promised $100-dollar debit cards offered to residents in exchange for their firearms.
Activists say they want to lower the city's murder rate by getting guns off the streets and making them more difficult to purchase. There were 466 homicides in Chicago in 2006, about a 4 percent increase over the 447 in 2005, which marked a 40-year low, police say.
"I'm not going to rest till we do something about this," said Holt's mother, Annette Holt, standing with Jackson on the courthouse steps.
Pfleger called the arrest an intimidation tactic.
"If they somehow think they can stop us by intimidating us, we're not going anywhere. We're going to step up," he said.