‘Black lives do matter,’ Pfleger declares as hundreds march ahead of historically violent 4th of July weekend
“We’ve got to wrap our arms around our young brothers. We’ve got to love them,” said Pfleger. “We’ve got to tell them they’re worth too much to end up dead or in jail.”
As neighborhoods ravaged by a recent spike in shootings brace for the historically violent Fourth of July weekend, Father Michael Pfleger led a rally Thursday evening on the South Side to call for more resources for affected communities and declare that “Black lives do matter.”
The rally at St. Sabina Church in Gresham, where Pfleger leads the congregation, comes after another brutal weekend of gun violence that left 18 people dead and 47 others wounded, according to Sun-Times data. Among those killed were 20-month-old Sincere Gaston and 10-year-old Lena Nunez.
While Pfleger decried those responsible for the spate of shootings, he also asked the hundreds in attendance — including Alds. David Moore, Patrick Daley Thompson and Derrick Curtis and state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) — to embrace the boys and men who have been pulled into the cycle of violence.
“We’ve got to wrap our arms around our young brothers. We’ve got to love them,” Pfleger said before leading a group on a march. “We’ve got to tell them they’re 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.”
At one point, the families of victims of gun violence gathered on the steps in front of St. Sabina and held up photos of their loved ones while a singer belted out “Amazing Grace.”
Sandra Brigham attended the rally to bring attention to the killing of her son, Ramon Breceda, who was shot to death in Little Village in 2014 at the age of 16. Brigham said she’s devastated that the two people who were convicted in connection with the killing have already been set free.
“Just because one is a juvenile and one is 18, why do they get to have their life and their freedom?” said Brigham, who lives in Pilsen and attends St. Sabina.
Given her experience, Brigham said she agrees with Chicago Police Supt. David Brown’s assessment that too many offenders are “given little to no jail time and low bonds and are placed on electronic monitoring.”
“You can never stop violence,” she said. “But there needs to be atonement for the crimes that are committed. Make the punishment fit the crime. It’s very simple.”
Though Brigham is specifically pushing for changes to the criminal justice system, Pfleger noted that the overarching fight for change requires widespread reinvestment in areas affected by the scourge of violence.
“We want justice for everybody,” he said. “Justice in education; justice in employment; justice in economic development; justice in health food; justice in access to mental health,” Pfleger said, pointing to the words “Demand Justice” that were recently painted on the asphalt on 78th Place next to St. Sabina
“We want justice in Chicago and the South Side,” he added.
“We’ve never seen anything like it, at all,” said Max Kapustin, the senior research director at the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
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Teyonna Lofton, an 18-year-old member of Pfleger’s youth group, later stepped to the podium and pleaded for additional trauma care on the South Side as she recounted the harrowing experience that transpired when she was shot May 31 at a gas station a half-mile south of St. Sabina.
With emergency resources stretched thin after a downtown protest gave way to a wave of looting and rioting a day earlier, Lofton was unable to get through to 911 when a bullet pierced her arm and struck an artery.
Lofton’s mother ultimately picked her up and drove her to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. But given the severity of the wound, Lofton had to then be transferred to the trauma unit at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn for surgery.
“I grew up in this neighborhood. [There’s] never been a trauma unit,” she said. “I’m not the first person that’s been shot in my neighborhood.
“This happens every single day. I understand the feeling of neglect.”