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Father Pfleger’s anti-gun violence “Die-in” protest calls for action, less talk

Photo caption: Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks at a “die-in” protest held on Thursday, July 13, 2023 at the Daley Plaza.

Fed up with the daily shootings and murders in Chicago, Father Michael L. Pfleger held a “die-in” protest Thursday, July 13th, at the Daley Plaza where more than a dozen Brave Leaders of Saint Sabina laid on the ground representing victims of the gun violence that has gripped this city with fear.

Father Pfleger was joined by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Po Murray, co-founder and chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance in Sandy Hook, CT where 20 children and six adults were killed 11-years ago in a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, members of Purpose Over Pain and other supporters.

“Stop the killing. The gun is not the answer,” Pfleger bellowed as the student Brave Leaders repeated three times. “These are not numbers. These are bodies that are dying every day,” Pfleger said as he joined the students laying down on the Plaza ground feigning death.

“Why are we here today? We are here today because we are all bleeding. We are here because gun violence has seemingly become acceptable and normal, and guns not only are a part of America’s wardrobe but the first response to every single problem,” Father Pfleger said.

As an example, he referred to an incident earlier on Thursday involving a fatal shooting of a 21-year-old female employee at Mariano’s store on 95th Street that police labeled a domestic issue. 

“Guns are now how we seem to answer all of our issues and problems,” said Father Pfleger.

“We average right now eight people shot every day in Chicago. Two people killed every day in Chicago, 400 murdered every year in Chicago since 1965 and that’s low average. Last year, we had 700 killed and more than that two years ago, 900,” Father Pfleger said. “Just going with 400 people a year, that’s over 23,000 people being killed in Chicago by gun violence since 1965.”

Pfleger said they came to the Daley Plaza because “gun violence is not acceptable to us. Gun violence is not normal in the city of Chicago and it can never become normal. Guns are not the answer to our problems, our issues, when we’re angry, when we’re mad.”

Referring the reporting of gun violence, Father Pfleger said it seems the focus is on the growing number of mass shootings locally and nationally. Admitting these shootings are “tragic,” he asked, “What about the everyday shootings? What about the everyday murders?”

He spoke about the July 4, 2022 Independence Day parade mass shooting in Highland Park where 7 people were killed and 48 wounded. “While we’re talking about what happened a year ago in Highland Park, we’re ignoring what happened last night in Chicago…last week in Chicago.

“This gun violence is paralyzing our communities and its traumatizing our children and our neighborhoods,” he said.  Father Pfleger said everyone should be on board in being angry about gun violence. “We want all of Chicago to become partners in this demand that a federal assault weapon ban be passed on a national level.

“We want an Office on Gun Violence that we have been working on for two years in Chicago in the mayor’s office. We also want to know if there is a gun violence office in the White House. We want that to happen now. We want people to work together with a concrete strategy in Chicago. We need action.” Pfleger said they don’t need passports or more examinations. What is needed is action to stop the gun violence.

“It’s time for Chicago to stand up and everybody in Chicago to get involved, and it’s time for everybody in Chicago to get mad because dying is going on in his city everyday like it’s part of Chicago’s life,” Pfleger said. “Not anymore. It can’t keep happening.”

Surrounded by members of Purpose Over Pain whose children were killed by gun violence, Adrienne Swanigan Williams, whose son, Tremayne Henderson, 21, was killed in 2017 in her Roseland home by his childhood friend, read off Thursday’s crime stats. She said those shot and killed were 314 people, shot and wounded were 1,278 people, total shot 1,592, total homicides 341. “That is ridiculous,” she stated.

Like Father Pfleger, Williams said she too hears a lot about the Highland shootings “when we have shootings in our communities every single day. Our communities are red. We are burying our children…. What about the Black children?”

Po Murray who said in 2012 her neighbor killed 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shootings. She knew then that the goal should be to unite with Chicago and others on ending gun violence. “Since Sandy Hook, over 1 million Americans have been shot, many in Chicago. Enough is enough.”

She and Father Pfleger called on Senator Dick Durbin, who chairman of the Judiciary Committee to pass the assault weapons ban, pass the universal background bill, pass the repeal of a bill that would hold the gun industry accountable, pass the Break the Cycle of Violence Act to fund community gun intervention, and provide funds and resources for these communities to end the cycle of violence in all communities, Murray said. “Guns don’t discriminate….”

Duncan, who heads the Chicago Creative Real Economic Destiny (CRED) anti-gun organization, said, “Gun violence is the cancer that is destroying the soul of our nation and it is destroying Chicago. Gun violence is a uniquely American problem. This doesn’t happen in Australia, in Canada, in England Japan…. We know how to solve this.

“We lack the political will. Unfortunately our country we value our guns more than our children and that has to change,” Duncan said. “In Chicago, we are six times more violent than New Work and three to four times more violence than L.A. “Our shared pain makes us family,” said Duncan.

Sharon Purnell lost her husband, Larry and her son,  Damien Purnell, to gun violence. She said five people came to her house in South Holland and shot him five times. That happened on January 14, 2017. “This is the month of his birthday. It still hurts,” she said. Her husband was killed last year around Mother’s Day doing lawn services for a young lady. “He got caught in gun violence. Two murders like this is devastating,” she said wiping away her tears.

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