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'Army of Moms' Starts Patrolling South Side After Shooting

By Sam Cholke | June 30, 2015 5:30am
 Tamar Manasseh of Mothers Against Senseless Killings is hoping to to break the violent cycle of retaliatory violence in Englewood by restoring some of the power of parents.
Tamar Manasseh of Mothers Against Senseless Killings is hoping to to break the violent cycle of retaliatory violence in Englewood by restoring some of the power of parents.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

ENGLEWOOD — An army of mothers started patrolling their neighborhood on Monday, gathering on corners after a shooting.

Mothers Against Senseless Killings volunteers in pink shirts were sitting in folding chairs and leaning against a mailbox at 75th Street and Harvard Avenue on Monday, hoping to prevent a violent retaliation after the death of Lucille Barnes a week ago.

“People are very emotional about it, and we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Tamar Manasseh. “If people say there will be violence, there likely will be violence, and you go where you’re called.”

According to police, a man walked by Barnes and two other women at 11:35 p.m. on June 23 in the 7500 block of Stewart Avenue and opened fire, fatally wounding 34-year-old Barnes.

Sam Cholke discusses the mothers' efforts to be more visible:

Manasseh mobilized the group for the first time after the shooting on the gamble that even the most embittered and determined on vengeance would not shoot under the glare of a motherly eye — let alone 15 sets of maternal eyes.

“If you’re trying to shoot someone and we’re out here, you’re not getting off the block,” said Manasseh, who grew up on the northern edge of Englewood at Garfield Boulevard and Bishop Street.

The group plans to plant itself on the corner for four hours, beginning at from 4 p.m., and return every day until Labor Day.

When the next shooting happens and there’s chatter of retaliation, the “army of mothers” as Manasseh calls them, will move and make sure the neighborhood knows that moms are watching.

The group brought grills and hot dogs, but no police. The idea was to show in unmistakable terms that the message to would-be shooters is coming from within the community.

“This is about mothers reconnecting with children that haven’t been mothered that much,” Manasseh said. “Take away the guns, and they’re just kids.”

Monday was the first day trying the idea, but nearly everyone who passed by was nodding in agreement before Manasseh even finished her pitch.

Thelma, who said she lived around the corner and declined to give her last name, said she had two boys she kept locked in the house to protect them from the violence in the neighborhood.

“They’ve never even walked to the store by themselves,” she said.

She mused with two other mothers about how things had changed since she was a young girl. Parents in her day would never have allowed a gun in the hands of a 16-year-old, she said.

Manasseh leaned in seeing that Thelma had found the core of the idea and was a likely convert.

“When you let a bunch of 16-year-olds run the world, this is what it looks like,” Manasseh said.

The Mothers Against Senseless Killings view is that guns are a symptom of a bigger problem: Parents have given up their authority to their children and now fear them when after seeing what teens will do with that power.

“It has to be a change in mindset; it can’t just be taking the guns away,” Manasseh said. “What is the alternative? What does it look like if it gets worse? A bulletproof vest in 2T at Target for your 2-year-old?”

To see that mindset in action doesn’t look like much. It turns the volume down dramatically from anti-violence marches and protests.

The women chatted and groused about the grills being late and there only being mediums of the T-shirts. But they also transmitted authority, vigilance and presence.

“A mother’s love is selfless, annoying and always there,” Manasseh said. “This is what mothers do best, get in the way.”

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