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In the midst of a tight race for U.S. Senate, Mehmet Oz visits Philly Black clergy members

Oz, the GOP Senate candidate, returned to Philadelphia on Sunday night to meet with clergy in Mayfair. The subject on everyone’s mind was gun violence.

Mehmet Oz attending services at Kingdom Empowerment International Ministries on Sunday.
Mehmet Oz attending services at Kingdom Empowerment International Ministries on Sunday.Read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

With the latest polls showing a tightening race, Mehmet Oz returned to Philadelphia on Sunday night to meet with local Black clergy members to press his case to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

The Kingdom Empowerment International Ministries was celebrating its 13th anniversary as a congregation with prayer services, live music, and a visit from the Republican candidate. A dozen clergy members, GOP ward leaders, and a visiting doctor from Haiti gathered for a roundtable talk with Oz about topics including safer neighborhoods, better schools, and accountability for where federal tax dollars go in the city. The subject on everyone’s mind was gun violence.

“It’s not just the shooter and the victim, but everybody that pays the price,” Oz told those gathered at the ministries’ offices in Northeast Philadelphia. “Ten percent of small kids have witnessed these shootings, and the impact is similar to having PTSD, like being in a war zone.”

» READ MORE: The Pa. Senate race is tight as Oz closes on Fetterman

Citing the city’s 1,000th carjacking and 400th homicide, and noting that many of the homicides have been committed by teens, Oz asked those at the gathering for their thoughts on why this is happening and how to address it. Participants suggested a breakdown of community bonds, as well as a lack of trust and respect for the police, and a lack of faith in religion.

“We need to reach out to young people,” said Maggie Bellevue, senior pastor of Kingdom Empowerment. “Help them come out of a life of crime … have a purpose for their lives.”

Oz attributed the recent crime surge in Philadelphia to a growing lawlessness fueled by drug use. In Oregon, for example, he said, decriminalization of many drugs has led to more overdoses. However, there isn’t proof that decriminalization in Oregon has caused rising overdoses, as those deaths have risen across the country — including in Philadelphia.

Ernso Cacimir, a doctor who owns a hospital in Haiti, traveled to Philadelphia to share with Oz and the group his experience treating victims of gun and gang violence back home.

“I came here for two missions: We are supporting Dr. Oz and his movement,” Cacimir said. “And to also speak about my community, who has been held hostage [by gun violence] for over five months.”

Melvin Prince Johnakin, a former write-in candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, made this case for Oz’s candidacy over Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has had just one rally in Philadelphia since suffering a stroke in May:

“People are ready for non-politicians. [Oz] is going to need the right people to understand the problems. … Him going into these communities has shaken the Democratic Party because Fetterman has dared not to go to these communities.”

» READ MORE: ‘Boring white guys’ are out in a Pennsylvania Senate race focused on personality