Little Village rallies in memory of Vanessa Guillén, against sexual violence in the military

“I was out here protesting for George Floyd. There’s no way that I’m not going to come out here for my sister Vanessa,” the rally organizer said.

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Hundreds of people rallied and marched though Little Village demanding justice for Vanessa Guillen on Friday, July 10, 2020.

Hundreds of people rallied and marched though Little Village Friday, demanding justice for Vanessa Guillen.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A few hundred people marched through Little Village’s main business corridor Friday evening to call for justice for Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén, the 20-year-old soldier who was missing for two months and suspected to have been harassed and killed by a fellow serviceman.

The crowd of young and old protested sexual violence against women in the military, marching east on 26th Street, blocking a lane of traffic and stopping to take a knee in each major intersection along the way to the predominantly Mexican American neighborhood’s famed arch.

Laura Rodriguez, a high school counselor, organized the rally. She said she couldn’t sit at home and stay quiet after reading about Guillén’s suspected murder.

“Vanessa was a U.S. solider fighting for our country. I think it’s only fair to be out here asking for justice, asking for the country to do its job,” Rodriguez, 30, said.

“There are definitely parallels with Black Lives Matter. The big issue is injustice. I was out here protesting for George Floyd. There’s no way that I’m not going to come out here for my sister Vanessa.”

Guillén’s suspected killer — Army Specialist Aaron David Robinson of south suburban Calumet City — shot himself to death July 1 as police were about to arrest him for killing Guillen at Fort Hood in Texas. The case has captured national attention.

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Guillén’s family has said she reported sexual harassment before she disappeared April 22, and that they’ve been treated disrespectfully by military officials stonewalling their effort to find out what happened to their daughter.

Guillén’s remains were found in several pieces June 30, more than two months after she disappeared. Army officials have said they have no evidence Guillén was sexually harassed, but on Friday acknowledged she faced “potentially some harassment, not of a sexual nature.”

Rodriguez said she wants sexual violence allegations to be taken out of the hands of military leadership and entrusted to an independent prosecutor’s office.

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Friday’s event started with a rally at Manuel Pérez Jr. Memorial Plaza, a Little Village site honoring a Mexican American soldier who died in World War II and posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

Most in the crowd wore white shirts — instead of black attire typical at funerals — to support peace and honor Guillén’s life.

Chants in Spanish included: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”

Signs in both Spanish and English called for “justice for Vanessa” and said “no soldier gets left behind.”

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