Chanting for peace and resources, about 80 people marched down the western edge of Washington Park on Saturday, blaming a host of leaders for failing to tackle what they argued were the root causes of chronic violence.
“The youth will not accept or tolerate another four years like we did” under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner, said one of the organizers, Assata Lewis, with the anti-violence group GoodKids MadCity. “Enough is enough.”
The marchers complained that resources have been diverted to richer neighborhoods while poorer ones suffer closing schools and mental health centers. They argued that police remain largely unaccountable and inefficient, as shootings and homicides plague South Side and West Side neighborhoods.
“We want to show our voices and be heard on these issues that just seem to be brushed aside,” said one of the organizers, Liza Booker, 17.
As of Saturday, the Tribune has tracked at least 518 homicides and at least 2,710 people shot so far in 2018. Chicago police figures show violence levels lower this year than last year, although with rates still relatively high compared with much of the past two decades, and higher than in New York or Los Angeles.
Researchers at the University of Chicago Crime Lab have noted much of the violence occurs in highly segregated and impoverished pockets of the city. The lab’s director, Jens Ludwig, told a City Club of Chicago audience earlier this year that the violence could come down with intensive investment in creating jobs for thousands of residents who are the most at risk to commit or fall victim to violence, along with money spent boosting teens’ graduation rates and improving data-driven policing.
Marchers gathered at the park’s northwest edge, on a triangular wedge where Martin Luther King and Ellsworth drives meet 51st Street. The protest began with a half-dozen speakers, including Onique Walker, whose son, Delmonte Johnson, was once a protester with GoodKids MadCity before he was killed in September.
“We have to stop. It has to end,” she told the crowd. “Chicago, let’s get it together. We (are) tired of waking up to the same thing over and over again.”
As dusk gave way to nightfall, marchers walked south down Martin Luther King Drive as cars either turned around or clung to the curb to inch by.
They stopped halfway, gathering in the park in a circle for more speakers, until continuing down Martin Luther King Drive until 61st Street, where protesters encircled the intersection. The group’s Twitter feed recorded how a protester railed against police-involved shootings. By then, squad cars had blocked off traffic, and protesters said officers eventually ordered them off the street. Police reported no arrests.
Before the protest, one of the organizers, Madison Miller, 18, said she wanted to show a new generation wasn’t going to settle for continued cycles of violence.
“It takes a village, and we are the village,” she said. “The youth have a voice.”