Sharpton: Criticism of Rev. Wright 'grossly unfair'
HASN'T OPENED OFFICE HERE | Pastor's daughter leads Chicago
chapter of activist's group
Eight months after the brash Rev. Al Sharpton announced he was bringing
his civil rights organization to Chicago, he has yet to open an office here and has been quiet on the recent shakeup of the
Chicago Police Department.
But don't think he isn't paying attention, he insisted Wednesday.
"I never said I was going to move to Chicago," he said. "I said I would
have a presence in Chicago, and I do."
On July 30, 2007, Sharpton announced he would open a Chicago chapter of
his National Action Network, one of 36 chapters across the country. At an August rally at the South Side's Regal Theater,
he vowed to have an office here by September.
That office hasn't materialized, said a spokeswoman at the New York headquarters
of the National Action Network.
Calls to a Chicago cell phone number listed on the group's Web site were
not returned Wednesday.
Sharpton said he's continuing to maintain his National Action Network chapter
in Chicago under chapter president Jeri L. Wright, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., the controversial minister
and pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.
In a major speech Tuesday, presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, a longtime
member of the church, reacted to questions about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, denouncing some of the language in
the pastor's fiery sermons.
Sharpton said he supports Wright and his daughter, who "is president of
the chapter and will remain president of the chapter."
Sharpton said the recent firestorm over Jeremiah Wright's comments in the
pulpit is "grossly unfair."
"He has a right to express his views," he said. "This is ridiculous. I think
Jeremiah Wright has been totally distorted."
Despite his lack of Chicago real estate, Sharpton, who unsuccessfully ran
for president in 2004, is on WVON-AM (1690) Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. The Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New
Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, is a frequent guest on his show, Sharpton said.
"We talk about Chicago issues all the time," Sharpton said.
Hatch said he believed Sharpton thought it would be more productive to work
with established groups in Chicago than as a lone agent for change.
"I'd say he has been one of many voices," Hatch said. "He's made some impact
in that he lent his voice at a critical time on the whole question of reforming police."
Sharpton said he visits Chicago monthly and plans a trip in mid-April to
hear reactions to Jody Weis, the new police superintendent. Sharpton said he liked how Weis shook up the department last week
by changing 21 of the 25 district commanders.
In December, though, Sharpton was initially critical of Daley's appointment
of Weis. He urged alderman to reject Daley's choice of the FBI supervisor, saying the mayor was arrogant not to seek input
from the black community first.
Sharpton also demanded that the Justice Department consider placing the
Chicago Police Department in receivership.
Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, said that Weis
hadn't met with Sharpton but "he's amenable to meeting with him," she said.
"He met with Rev. [Jesse] Jackson today," she said. "I'm sure he's open