By Chinta Strausberg
Father Michael L. Pfleger Thursday offered a $5,000 reward for the killer of 23-year-old Emoni Atomah, a member of his church who was gunned down Just four-hours after Pfleger held a blue light peace march in memory of the 461 people who lost their lives to gun violence last year and in honor of Dr. King’s birthday.
Atomah was killed at the corner of 78th Pace and Throop Street, according to Father Pfleger, who said, “I am sick and tired” of this gun violence. “My heart is broken.” Atomah was shot four-hours after Father Pfleger ended his annual blue light peace march held on Dr. King’s actually birthday.
“We just had a peace march earlier tonight and somebody shot the same night,” Father Pfleger told reporters. “It just makes me angry. It breaks my heart, and I’m angry. I’m just tired of it…just tired of it,” he said referring to the daily gun violence that is taking so many lives.
Father Pfleger is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of the killer of the victim who may have been one of his members.
Four hours earlier, Father Pfleger held a peace march late Wednesday night where he led more than 200 people from Saint Sabina Church to 83rd and Bishop where 20-year-old Sasha Moore was shot in the head while sitting in her car.
Before holding the silent, blue light peace march, Father Pfleger spoke to his supporters at the church explaining why they were marching on Dr. King’s actual birthday and because of the murder of Moore, a graduate of Perspective Charter High School, who was fatally shot by a man last Tuesday.
Holding blue lights representing the United Nation’s color of peace, Father Pfleger held the march on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actual birthday. Had he lived, Dr. King would have been 91-years old.
Dr. King was Father Pfleger’s mentor having witnessed the iconic civil rights leader being stoned and cursed on August 5, 1966 in Marquette Park when he was just a 17-years-old. At the time, Pfleger was impressed that Dr. King reacted in a non-violent way through surrounded by rock-throwing white racists angered over King’s anti-segregation march in their community.
So, in that vein, Father Pfleger held a press conference before the peace march to remember Dr. King in a social action manner rather than a day of service and to wish the civil rights leader a happy birthday.
On Dr. King’s last birthday in 1968, he met with a multi-cultural, multi-racial group of supporters to help him plan the Poor Peoples campaign. It was not a birthday party but rather a plan for yet another social action intervention on behalf of the poor.
“This week and all around this country and Chicago, people will have celebrations honoring Dr. King, but the reality is unless we adopt the values that are King and the philosophy and the commitment to non-violence and to love, then those celebrations are really mockery and hypocrisy.”
To actually honor Dr. King, Father Pfleger explained, “We got to be like him and act like him and choose what he chose about a lifestyle value.
“Last year, 461 people were killed by gun violence in Chicago. That is unacceptable,” Pfleger told the marchers. Saying while he is glad the number of homicides are down from 2019, Pfleger said, “but guess what, if you are one of those 461 families, you are not happy at all the numbers are down because you lost a family member.”
Those murders, Father Pfleger explained, are connected to not only the victims but to their neighbors, their friends and their schools. The pain of their deaths ripples throughout the community. “They are all affected and traumatized in a city that is already in trauma from gun violence.”
In honoring Dr. King, a man who represents non-violence, Father Pfleger said people must have the same values as the civil rights leader. “Guns cannot be a means of our anger or the way we settle disputes with one another in this city.
“It’s time to put the guns down. It’s time to stop using guns as our first round of offense and get rid of this gun madness in America,” he told the marchers.
“We’re killing one another. You can’t talk about what other countries are doing oversees while we are killing one another in the streets of Chicago. It’s unacceptable.”
Wearing a black, hooded T-shirt bearing the words, “#EndGunViolence,” Father Pfleger issued a second demand and that was people who know the shooters “must break the code of silence” that allows killers to get away with murder and possibly kill again.
Thanking the plainclothes police who attended Wednesday’s peace march, Father Pfleger admitted there is “still a strain in the relationship between the police and the community, but we can’t wait for relationships to be all great in order to talk. We got to talk now. We have to make sure that whoever shot and killed the young lady last night” is caught.
“Killers should not be able to go back home, put up their feet and enjoy their evening,” Pfleger said. “If you shoot and you kill, you got to go to jail, and we got to talk and we got to talk and break the code of silence.”
Supporters want elected officials to speak out about the violence and said after Moore was shot she drove a few blocks until she saw a policeman but died later at a hospital.
Lucy Sanchez, from the Brighton Park’s Advocate for Peace, said, “We are here united. It is not just a problem here in West Englewood, Englewood and Brighton Park, in Back-of-the-Yards and Little Village. It’s all of Chicago,” she told reporters.
“We are tired of our brothers, our sisters, our aunts, our uncles our friends living in fear every day,” Sanchez said. “We are tired of this violence and we are here to do something because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have done something if he were here right now.
“So, let us make his dream come true. Let us make his dream become a reality…in our community,” Sanchez said. Another member of the Brighton Park group, Diego, spoke of the need for peace in Spanish.
Having lost her son, Terrell Bosley, 18, to gun violence on April 4, 2006 outside of a church, Pam Bosley, who heads the Purpose Over Pain group comprised of parents who also lost their children to gun violence, said, “Today, Terrell’s case still remains unsolved.
“We live in a city where we still have 80 percent of our cases (murder) unsolved,” Bosley said listing even more homicide victims. “I am pleading to our acting (Police Superintendent) and to our Chicago mayor to make solving our children’s cases a top priority.”
Bosley said her son and the other children who were victims of gun violence “deserve to have been able to live and to have their pursuit of happiness.”
The marchers then turned on their blue lights and lined up in two’s. They silently marched from Saint Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Place, to 83rd and Bishop where Moore was shot where they called for an end to gun violence.