Dozens of people gathered at a North Side community center Wednesday evening to decry societal ills that they said have contributed to the more than 750 homicides in Chicago in 2016, the most in a single year since the late ’90s.
Many of those problems, they said, can be laid at the feet of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
About 40 people met at the Indian American Center at Wilson and Paulina, where various speakers spent about an hour discussing inequity in housing, education, law enforcement and civil rights.
Then the group quietly marched half a mile southwest to Emanuel’s Ravenswood home. Just past his front lawn, they placed three prop caskets that read: “R.I.P. Mental Health Clinics”; “R.I.P. Police Accountability”; and “R.I.P. Rebuilding Public Housing.”
The group also put flowers and plastic battery-operated candles on the caskets.
The shades of Emanuel’s home were drawn and all lights were out except for the living room. About 10 Chicago Police officers stood outside.
Camiella Williams, of Auburn Gresham, said she came to the meeting and march to encourage others to speak out against inequity, but also to put pressure on Emanuel to do more to quell the city’s rampant gun violence and address its ripple effects.
“I’m a young lady that’s in Chicago who lost 28 loved ones to gun violence. Five this year,” Williams said. “I’m very outraged that nothing has been done. We haven’t seen a plan, no initiatives, no help for my PTSD or the other people that are living with PTSD.”
Williams said she would like to see more funding for mental health facilities, “real police accountability,” which she said would include convictions for officers who use lethal force, and a violence prevention plan that would help spur economic development.
As each speaker addressed those in attendance, a slideshow of the names of those killed in Chicago this year was projected on a wall. Each name remained on the screen for about seven seconds.
H. Demetrius Bonner, a co-founder of the Chicago Housing Initiative, served as emcee and told supporters that “these deaths are not events.”
“When we tell the story of our losses, as a community, our compounding losses, we shouldn’t write it as a story of 770 discreet and disconnected tragic events,” Bonner said. “These deaths are more than just events, tragic events. These deaths are more than just headlines. These deaths are ongoing. Make no mistake about it.”
Arewa Karen Winters, the great-aunt of Pierre Loury, a 16-year-old who was fatally shot by police on the West Side in April, said Emanuel has shown an “unwillingness to really reach out to the communities that are hurting.”
“Family members want to talk to him,” Winters said. “They want to share. They want him to see our pain, hear our stories. And that hasn’t happened.”