Illinois, United States (Sputnik) – Families of Chicago’s homicide victims of 2016 marched silently along Michigan Avenue on the last day of the year with heavy wooden crosses in their hands to pay tribute to their loved ones and protest violence.
Each of the more than 750 crosses represented a person murdered in 2016 and had his or her name inscribed on it.
This year was Chicago’s most violent in almost two decades, with most of the deaths gun-related. One of the memorial march organizers, Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church, told reporters that he hoped to draw the public’s attention to the problem by bringing into sharp focus just how many lives were lost and how many hearts broken.
“Who are we calling to get involved? Everyone. Every elected official, every government agency, every business and corporation, every mosque, every synagogue and church, every law enforcement official, every parent, neighbor and resident, and every citizen — from children to elders. Everyone. We are calling on all of Chicago to take a stand against violence,” he said, the Chicago Tribune reports.
There were no chants, just a reading of victims’ names as march participants mourned their passing, followed by looks of compassion from passers-by.
“It is a very moving moment to see all of these people, carrying the crosses with the names and the photographs,” said onlooker Maria Camargo, according to local station WGNTV.
Pfleger also told reporters he was ashamed of Chicago’s reputation as the nation’s bloodiest city and felt like all of its residents, no matter whether they were from West Side or South Side, needed to be shaken by a powerful demonstration.
Chicago’s murder toll this year exceeds the combined total of the US’s two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles.
But for the relatives of those whose names were scribbled on the crosses, the Magnificent Mile was also a chance to ease the pain by sharing it with those who understand.
“It means a lot,” said Renee Canaday Sr., who had taken time off from his job as a postal worker to honor his son, DeAndre Holiday, who was shot to death just two hours into 2016, “I know it’s sad, but this all just makes me feel better.”
Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department announced that they were planning to implement a series of initiatives to reduce violence in 2017 and ‘build public trust.’
The department has faced charges of murder itself in recent years, particularly of black men.