By Steve Waring
About 1,400 people joined an evening prayer vigil and marched through downtown Chicago March 22 in honor of the city’s 806 young victims of gun violence since 2008.
CROSSwalk began in the evening at St. James Commons. The march included a large turnout of supportive police in squad cars, on foot, and on bicycles. Police stopped traffic as the procession completed a circuit through some of the busiest downtown streets of the city. Marchers drew curious stares and occasional calls of support from bystanders.
The vigil made intermediate stops at Daley Plaza and Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. At St. Patrick’s Julian Roman-Nunez, 11, read his somber account of the day in October 2010 when his older brother, Manuel, had been shot and killed.
The final stop was a park across the street from Stroger Hospital, where many victims of gun violence in Chicago are often treated.
There the Rev. Carol Reese, a recently ordained priest appointed to serve as chaplain of Stroger’s trauma department, praised the marchers’ grassroots campaign to change laws and a culture of violence.
CROSSwalk asked marchers to make three commitments: to lobby the state legislature for stricter gun laws on April 10, to join a citywide volunteer day on May 12, and to provide summer jobs for young people.
“Show up,” Chaplain Reese said. “Show that their lives matter.”
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee said the idea of remembering all young victims of violence in Chicago came to him on All Saints Day 2011. Just as he was about to begin reciting the names of recently departed Episcopalians, he had asked for a moment of silence for victims of murder.
Bishop Lee credits Jack Clark, director of CROSSwalk and a postulant for ordination, with bringing 60 other denominations and civic groups together.
“I think what an organization like CROSSwalk brings to the movement against gun violence is a group of people who up to this point heard with sadness of young people dying, but didn’t understand it was our responsibility,” said the Rev. Bonnie Perry, rector of All Saints’ Church, where CROSSwalk is based. “It isn’t somebody else’s child. They are all our children.”