Our Pledge To You


Shut down the Dan Ryan, march to stamp out the daily gunfire

Anti-violence advocate Father Michael Pfleger addresses at crowd at the "End of School Year Peace March and Rally" in Chicago on June 15.
| JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

Shut it down. Until the shooting stops and this stain of human blood and carnage on the city’s West and South sides become a distant memory, shut it down. And let us all march to stamp out the rapacious appetite of gun-wielding murderers and the daily gunfire that echoes in certain Chicago neighborhoods, like an incessant summer storm. Let us stand united in protest. And let us sing again those spiritual songs that once ushered a movement in America toward civil and human rights.


And if this weekend’s planned march on the Dan Ryan Expy., led by Father Michael L. Pfleger and the Faith Community of St. Sabina, makes some city and state officials squirm, then let them squirm. Let them also be ashamed. Be very ashamed. And let them proclaim that this city must be insane to not at long last cure this scourge called violence and revoke its claim on mostly poor black and brown neighborhoods, where good people fall prey to young assassins’ indiscriminate aim. Where bullets reign. And if — when all is said and done — the Illinois State Police have made good on their promise to potentially arrest protestors to bar them from the expressway, then let the jailhouse overflow. Let the cameras show. Let the whole world know.

And if this protest angers good citizens who dwell beyond the killing fields, where black and brown bodies fall like strange fruit in alleys, on sidewalks and stoops, where grieving mothers wail, then let them be angry. Still, let them also feel the protester’s pain. Let it be for gain.

And if this march makes our fair city’s stone-cold soul — which has grown numb to thousands of shootings and hundreds of murders each year — stand finally exposed in international shame, then let the light of truth and justice prevail. Let the whole world question why the toll of homicide here still swells.

Let them ask, “Why is Chicago ‘safe’ for Lollapaloozas and Country LakeShakes, for NFL drafts, shimmering lakefront Ferris wheels and assorted summer fests while in communities a few miles away little black girls jumping rope outside need Kevlar vests?”

Let them wonder why Chicagoans who live in certain neighborhoods — composed mostly of law-abiding citizens — stand too often with one foot in fear and the other on the fragile edge of life and death. A world where skyscrapers twinkle alluringly in the distance on a starry night while on this side of the tracks sirens blare, death tolls prematurely, and murdered souls depart this Earth by morning’s light.

Let every alderman give account.

Let Mayor Rahm Emanuel explain.

Let Police Supt. Eddie Johnson answer how in neighborhoods, like Englewood and East and West Garfield Park and North Lawndale, people are supposed to feel in some way comforted by the latest statistics signaling a percentage decline in shootings and homicides citywide. When on their blocks shooters still bang, drug dealers still sling, and bullet-ridden bodies dropping on the streets is still routine.

Let “the church” — the collective body of faith — stand and be counted as doers of the word, not hearers only.

As champions of peace, justice and equality.

As defenders of the least of these. Willing to leave the comforts of the sanctuary and take to the streets. To heed an age-old prophetic call to be the change they want to see. Rather than cower in the shadows of complacency or yield to the political powers that be.

Let the church, like Father Pfleger and St. Sabina, take up this cross. For far too many souls have been lost.

Let us march. Let our voices resound. Let us shut it down.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com