WOODLAWN — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, took a stroll through Parkway Gardens in Woodlawn Wednesday.
Speaking to a crowd of about 100 outside New Beginnings Church, 6620 S. Martin Luther King Drive, Paul said people should “seek inner grace” to raise up neighborhoods and stop the violence.
“We’ve got crime in my neighborhood too, we’ve got problems too,” Paul said, referencing a 2011 incident in Bowling Green, Ky., when a 21-year-old woman was accused of cutting open a pregnant woman’s abdomen and removing the fetus.
Paul said people should not look to the government for salvation from what he called a “spiritual problem.”
“Ultimately, salvation is something you accept yourself,” he said.
Sam Cholke describes the crowd’s reaction to Paul’s message:
Before the speech, Paul, a Republican U.S. senator from Kentucky, took a walk with the Rev. Corey Brooks through Parkway Gardens and eyed a closed McDonald’s.
“This should be an economic freedom zone,” Paul said during the walk of his plan to boost economically depressed communities. “What if we dramatically lowered the taxes for businesses on this block?”
Paul came back to the McDonald’s again in his speech, adding there is no reason the business should be closed and saying taxes should be further lowered for business owners who live in the community and hire locally.
The plan was one of only a handful of suggestions from the presidential hopeful, but it got nods from people in the neighborhood curious to see why a high-ranking Republican was visiting the South Side.
People in the audience said they liked Paul’s ideas to treat low-level drug crimes as a public health problem rather than a criminal justice issue and his pledge to restore voting rights for some felons.
But Paul was met with the skepticism of a crowd worn out by unfulfilled promises from campaigning politicians.
“If he’s being honest about what he said, he’s got a lot of good ideas,” said Jeremy Stokes, who lives across the street at Parkway Gardens.
The speech is the first in what Brooks hopes will be a series of all the 2016 presidential candidates visiting Woodlawn.
“On the South Side, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, we’re just excited that you’re coming to hear our views,” Brooks said.
Paul seemed hopeful he could capture the attention of voters who have felt ignored during previous presidential elections.
“If you want things to be different, if you want things to change, you’re going to have to look for something new,” Paul said.