By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
In a united front, Father Michael L. Pfleger, pastor of the Parish of St. Sabina, and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson Friday challenged adults to take back their communities to end the senseless gunfire that is killing innocent lives and shattering thousands of families in Chicago.
Johnson’s appearance is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Garry McCarthy, a stoic police chief who was often criticized for not having a big presence in crime-ridden neighborhoods. The march was one of several rallies where Johnson has appeared since his appointment earlier this year.
After a warm-up by the Saint Sabina Youth Choir, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ, prayed for peace.
During the march, a police car and a SUV rode through the neighborhood blaring songs like, “Black Lives Matter.” Marchers shouted, “Guns down, peace up,” “Don’t shoot. Put down the guns,” and “Save a life right now.”
As part of the march, Purpose Over Pain members, Marsha Lee, Annette Nance-Holt and Diana Pierce read more than 100 names of children under the age of 20, including their own, who were victims of gun violence since last year.
Activist Ja‘Mal Green said, “The definition of revolution is love. We are at war with each other. We are at war for trying to build community trust with the police as well.” He praised Johnson for suspending a policeman who stepped on the head of a young Black man. “We should not have to leave our city because the crime is so high. We need to all come together.”
With the police chief in attendance, the march had one of the most diverse groups of participants. Joining Pfleger were: U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL); State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th); State Rep. Sonya M. Harper (D-6th); City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza; Minister Jeffery Muhammad of the Nation of Islam; Pastor Will Hall, 100 Black Men; City Treasurer Kurt Summers; members from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence; and a number of churches and organizations like, Purpose Over Pain, Our Lady of Perpetual Hope from Glenview, IL and many others, including Ronnie Mosley, the emcee.
Durbin acknowledged the first anniversary of the massacre of nine people in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church including the pastor, Rep. Clementa Pinckney (D-SC). Pfleger also mentioned the man who killed 49 people and injured 53 before taking his own life on June 11 in Orlando, FL.
In the Windy City, Durbin said according to Johnson, 40 percent of the guns on the streets that are killing innocent people in Chicago come from across the border in Indiana. He said gang bangers purchase guns there before they sell them in Chicago neighborhoods at night.
Pfleger also cited grim statistics that show how bad the gunfire in Chicago has become.
“Since January 1, 2016, 266 have been killed and 1,477 wounded. In this month, 35 killed and 179 wounded in June. Our children deserve to have a safe summer. Our children should not be afraid to go the park, sit on their porch or play with their friends on their blocks. The laughter and voices of children should be louder than shots fired or sirens blowing in our streets,” said Pfleger.
Johnson admitted that the “trust between the community and the police department is fractured. We are going to change. We are going to be your police department. The majority of police officers are professional and respectful. There is a small segment of his department that violates the rights of people. We will take back our city.”
Explaining why he held a march and rally, Pfleger said, “If our gathering here raises the consciousness of every single one of us here in attendance; if it convicts us to overcoming our apathy, stop being afraid and passive, and it causes us to do something when we live here, and if mounting to the streets gives hope and cause of action, then this will be a success.”
Muhammad said, “It’s time for us to say it’s enough. It is time for every Black man in the audience to take our proper place in this community. When Black men stand up, young Black men will sit down.”