A cloud of helium balloons and three white doves filled the air above a South Side street on Wednesday, along with sobs, expressions of love for a slain toddler, demands for an end to the violence – and calls for a more compassionate police response.
“Enough is Enough,” some chanted as they held signs with photos of Sincere Gaston, the 20-month-old boy slain Saturday afternoon.
The tearful vigil was held near the corner of 61st and South Halsted, not far from the spot where Sincere was shot and killed as his mother drove to an Englewood laundromat.
Love you Sincere,” cried his father. “Love you Doodie,” called his mother.
The vigil drew a large crowd. It was organized by Chicago CRED, an organization advocating reducing gun violence through investment in resources and counselling for people who have experienced trauma. Other groups that participated included IMAN, I Am Able, FLIP, and Purpose Over Pain.
Sincere’s parents and grandmother Eve Binion spoke.
Sincere’s father, Thomas Gaston, told the crowd he had been treated “wrong” by the police, “like I’m the suspect.” He was referring to theorizing by the police that he, not his child, had been the intended target, because he often drove the same car.
Steve Gates, who works with CRED, said he has known Thomas Gaston since 2009. He took issue with Gaston being called the “intended target.”
He said those asking whether Gaston was “the target” need to “stop dehumanizing African American men. Let [Thomas Gaston] be a victim.”
Gates said such treatment continued when Thomas Gaston and Sincere’s mother went to pick up their property after the shooting. The couple were told by the police that they first had to give statements, said Gates, who likened this to a “threat.”
“It’s almost like the CPD criminalizes loss,” said Gates, who said he has spent 10 to 12 hours a day with the family since the shooting.
When the child’s mother Yasmine Miller, 22, spoke at the vigil, she called for the police to help.
“We are not pleased on how y’all treated us,” she said. “We need y’all help ... I don’t want not another mother to feel my pain.”
Asked to respond to the parents’ remarks, the police issued a statement.
“The Chicago Police Department expresses its condolences to the parents of Sincere Gaston for their profound loss of their young son,” the statement read. “Our detectives are conducting a thorough investigation into the murder of an innocent child, working diligently to identify and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible.”
Miller, a daycare teacher, had been driving to the laundromat with her son when he was shot. Miller suffered a graze wound to her own head.
Sincere’s funeral services next Monday will be paid for by Leak and Sons Funeral Homes.