Tough questions after deadly Fourth of July in Black neighborhoods
By Keith Chambers and Chinta Strausberg
The deadly Fourth of July weekend in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods had residents questioning the city’s failed strategy of putting 1,200 additional officers on the street.
As the city recalibrates its policing plans, Saint Sabina’s pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, is demanding the Chicago Police Department spend more time solving the murders of victims as gun violence continues to surge.
After peace rallies and anti-gun violence marches, Chicago had one of its deadliest weekends of the year. Some 13 residents died and 70 were shot. One of the victims, Natalia Wallace, 7, was shot and killed in Chicago’s South Austin neighborhood as she visited her grandmother for a July 4th party.
Natalia was shot in the forehead as she and other children played in the yard. She was taken to Stroger Hospital where she later died, police said. The shooting happened in the 100 block of North Latrobe Avenue.
On WVON radio Monday, July 6, Loretta, a caller to the Perri Small Show, said she saw 10 police officers on nearly every block but none in her West Side neighborhood.
“Why can’t they be in the Austin neighborhood,” she asked.
The weekend started with several police rallies.
Pfleger on July 2 held a peace march where he demanded that the murders be solved and said to shooters, “Stop killing us.”
Standing in front of members of Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere (B.R.A.V.E.) on the front stairs of Saint Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Place, Pfleger bellowed, “Stop killing us” no matter who pulls the trigger, as supporters repeated his plea.
Around the corner was a huge green sign painted on the street outside of the church that read, “Demand,” and another word, “Justice” also in green. Pfleger echoed that message saying, “We demand justice.”
“We want justice for everybody…justice in education…justice in employment, justice in economic development, justice in healthy food, justice in access to mental health. We want justice on the South Side,” Pfleger told the multi-cultural crowd.
The purpose for the peace march, according to Pfleger, is because “the shootings and the killings…in the beginning of this year, especially in the last few weekends…are unacceptable in Chicago.”
Referring to the six babies who were either shot or killed in a two-week period, Pfleger said when he was chaplain in the Cook County Jail, “and you killed a child or somebody’s mother or grandmother and you came in the jail, you had to be isolated because they would kill you in the jail.”
“We can’t have higher standards in the jail than we do on the streets. We are not going to allow it,” Pfleger said. “It is evident that we are losing our battle for peace in Chicago, and we’re losing our souls. The Windy City cannot become the bloody city, and we cannot allow ourselves to be a city where it is not safe for children to live and grow up.”
Pfleger said we have a city that is unsafe for a child to grow up in and that so many lives are being lost. “To stop that leak is to make the city safe to raise our children, keep them alive and reach their destiny.”
“Black lives do matter whether they are rich or they are poor, whether they are a college student or a gang member…straight or gay, whether they are one-year-old, a nine-year-old, a lawyer or unemployed, whether they have a Ph.D., or no degree at all, Black lives do matter,” said Pfleger.
Standing beside her sister and her friend, Lisa Dagher, who is white, commented on the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. “It means we should have been saying this a long time ago. It means that finally there will be a moment where there might actually be some change, and Black lives will matter to everyone,” she said.
Alejandra Brigham held a picture of her son’s best friends who were also murdered as well as her son, Ramon Breceva, Jr., 16, who was murdered in Pilsen on August 1, 2014 before his friends were killed. “The police solved the case, but I haven’t received my justice because they let all three defendants go,” said Brigham.
Flanked by his children, Jerry Dixon, held a sign that said, “Chicago Kids Matter.” “This gun violence is senseless and it is sad. They didn’t have a chance to grow up in life. They could have been doctors, lawyers, anything in life,” Dixon said.
Pfleger had a message for the shooters. “Anyone who pulls the trigger to injure or take a life in the community is a danger to the community. We’ve got to wrap our arms around our brothers. We’ve got to love them. We got to tell them they are worth too much to end up dead or in jail, but if they will not listen and they keep shooting, then they’ve got to go to jail because you can’t kill our children.”
And that goes for anybody pulling a trigger, Pfleger said, “Whether it is a cop or a person down the block, everyone must be held accountable.”
He also had a message for the police department.
“Solve these cases. If they (the shooters) know that there is an 80 percent chance they won’t get caught,” the shootings will continue. “We’ve got to solve these cases,” he said.
“We join together with hands across Chicago calling for the same kind of outrage for the Black, the white, the brown, the suburbs, the city. Everybody came out when George Floyd was killed and we should have,” Pfleger said, “but we ought to come out when our babies are killed too.”
He called on everyone in the city and suburbs to come out to help save the babies. “Stop killing us,” Pfleger bellowed.