AUBURN GRESHAM — Beverly resident John St. Preux thinks people are taking notice of protests that have spread throughout Chicago and across the country.
"These tough-on-crime laws have led police to lock up more black men and have led them to believe that black lives are dispensable," said St. Preux, 53, who took part in a South Side march led by Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina. "This movement is just the beginning."
Marches across the city marked a fourth day of action following a New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, 43. In recent days, activists have marched through Downtown, staged die-ins at prominent locations, and walked into traffic on Lake Shore Drive and the Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways.
They are outraged over the deaths of blacks killed by police. They point to incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland and New York as just the latest, and most high-profile, examples of police killings that have had little, if any, legal consequences.
In Chicago, the family of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed black woman shot and killed by an off-duty Chicago Police detective, is awaiting that officer's trial, which has been delayed until next year.
Camiella Williams, 27, demonstrated in Ferguson after a grand jury declined to recommend charges against Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown.
"I've lost a cousin and a friend to gun violence here in Chicago, and to see two black lives lost at the hand of police is hard," Williams said.
For Williams, the failure to indict the officers involved in the deaths of both Garner and Brown is further proof of the minimal importance placed on black lives in America.
"When the verdict came out, I was shocked," Williams said. "In this era, I really thought justice would be served, and it wasn't."
Williams was among at least 100 parishioners and community members taking part in a peaceful protest led by Pfleger, the outspoken Auburn Gresham pastor. His congregation interrupted Sunday Mass to march through the neighborhood, with several lying in the street as others held their hands in the air or at their throats, mimicking Garner, who told police he couldn't breathe before he was choked to death.
"We are interrupting injustice," Pfleger said. "We are taking a stand as people of faith. We are taking a stand against injustice, a stand against racism, a stand against racial profiling, a stand against a broken justice system. A stand against the violence that is creating genocide killing our black children in America. A stand against the militarization of our police, a stand against of poor education, a stand against mass incarceration, a stand against inequalities in America."
Parishioners cheered as Pfleger said the church would join the thousands of young people who have had "enough."
At one point, parishioners stopped and sang "Amazing Grace."
"We are here to send America a message to bring to light that the injustices that have been inflicted on black Americans has to stop. Everyone deserves justice no matter their color," said 27-year-old Mack Julion, an Auburn Gresham resident.
Other protests took place in Bronzeville, the West Side, the Loop and in Rogers Park, where Loyola University students mourned the shooting death of Mutahir Rauf, 23, who was killed during a robbery Friday night.
"People need to recognize the value we put on black lives is minimal," said Adrianna Parker, 19. "We are people before we are black. We are not a threat, we are not a problem, we are human like everyone else."
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