After West Side mass shooting, leaders offer hope, call for more funding to combat violence: ‘We are not destroyed’
U.S Rep. Danny Davis called for “a massive infusion of cash money, resources to really reconstitute urban communities on the West Side of Chicago” and across the country — “the same kind of money” being sent to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
Pamela Smith joined nearly 150 people Wednesday who assembled at California Avenue and Polk Street in East Garfield Park, where two nights before there had been a children’s Halloween party, a vigil for a woman who had died and then a mass shooting in which 14 were wounded.
Smith came out because religious and city leaders had called a vigil for the victims of Monday night’s shooting and a close family member of hers was among the people shot.
“I want to support my nephew. I don’t like what happened to him, he’s a good person,” she said.
Religious leaders from around the city spoke to the crowd, offering prayers for peace and unity; and political leaders, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, called for an end to violence.
The shooting happened around 9 p.m. on Halloween night. Police say gunmen in a car opened fire. A woman was struck by a car as she tried to flee.
“I got to keep my spirit up because I got to go check on him every day,” Smith said.
She watched with her family from the back of the crowd. Her nephew was still in the hospital and his condition was serious, she said. He had come out that night to bring his girlfriend’s kids to the Halloween party. The kids were OK, Smith said.
Wednesday night’s vigil was the second time that day that community and political leaders had gathered there.
Wednesday morning, leaders offered messages of perseverance while calling for additional funding to address violence and disinvestment on the West Side.
“As a community, we are pressed on every side by troubles. We are not crushed,” said Yolanda Fields, executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. “We are perplexed, but we are not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
“We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
Fields, whose organization does anti-violence work and provides other services in the community, told reporters that 10 of the gunshot victims were related to the woman who was being mourned, including two of the three children.
But instead of focusing solely on the attack, many of Wednesday morning’s speakers pushed for investments to address the root causes of gun violence and its effect on communities.
U.S Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) called for “a massive infusion of cash money, resources, to really reconstitute urban communities on the West Side of Chicago” and across the country — “the same kind of money” being sent to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lightfoot, the state and city governments have launched programs dedicated to funneling resources into historically violent areas of Chicago.
Lightfoot’s signature Our City, Our Safety program dedicated more than $450 million over the last two years to fund violence-reduction efforts, jobs programs, affordable housing and homelessness support services and other programming.
In declaring gun violence a public health crisis last November, Pritzker dedicated $250 million for community-based grants focused on violence prevention and youth development and intervention initiatives.
But the speakers agreed more help was desperately needed.
On Wednesday evening, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown offered a $15,000 reward for information on the shooting.
“The people who did this crime, they got to get them,” said James, 31, an East Garfield Park resident — who was afraid to give his last name — watching Brown speak.
“It’s a sad situation that kids gotta survive bullets. That’s not normal, for a 3-year-old, 10-year-old or 20-year old,” the East Garfield Park resident said.
Three children — 3, 11 and 13 years old — were seriously wounded in Monday’s shooting, though the full circumstances of the attack remain unclear. Brown has told reporters that shots were fired from a passing car. A source told the Sun-Times that rifle rounds were among the shell casings recovered.
A woman who identified herself as Mrs. Patterson said she had organized the vigil on Monday night and had relatives injured in the shooting. She broke down in tears at the Wednesday evening vigil.
Lasundra Ward said the shots rang out as a group gathered for a vigil for one of her relatives, a 36-year-old woman who had died days earlier after battling cancer. Ward said she was wounded in a nearby shooting in July, but she wasn’t struck in the recent attack.
“I was out there holding a balloon when it happened,” Ward told the Sun-Times at Wednesday morning’s event. “There was nothing but adults and little kids out there.
“We don’t understand what happened.”