GRAND CROSSING — Thousands of people dressed in red took up 42 blocks along 79th Street Saturday morning to raise awareness about skyrocketing gun violence in the city.
“We refuse to live in fear" said John F. Hannah, pastor of Grand Crossing’s New Life Covenant Church. His church spearheaded the event, which brought together more than 4,000 people from across the city.
Kyana Mallone (l.) lost her boyfriend Jeremy Parker to gun violence May 3, 2016. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
The anti-violence “Prayer on the 9” gathering is in its sixth year; this year it included those outside the church, he said, because the church’s role is to “come out of the four walls” to help improve the South Side.
Participants in the two-mile prayer line from Greenwood Avenue to the Dan Ryan Expressway wore red, representing the blood that has been shed, Hannah said. They sang gospel hymns and prayed at 10:30 a.m.
At 11:30 a.m., police blocked off the street and those who have lost loved ones were asked to step into 79th Street and lie down in an effort to demonstrate the enormity of the violence. There was a three minute moment of silence where only signs blowing in the wind and people crying on the ground could be heard. Many people held up photos of their deceased loved one.
Murder victims' friends and family lie along 79th Street for massive anti-violence rally Saturday. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) joined Hannah in his efforts to bring awareness to the lives lost to gun violence on the South Side.
“Too many kids are having their childhood stolen from them,” Emanuel said, adding that it’s everyone’s job to work together if change is to happen. He had just announced Thursday the 3rd Annual Summer of Faith and Action, a citywide initiative designed to promote safety throughout Chicago in the summer months.
He said the Chicago Police Department can’t do it alone and that initiative’s like Saturday’s are needed.
“Things like this give me hope and encouragement,” he said.
Harris, whose ward includes the church, said she loves the community and wants to be a part of the change. Before the event started, she took the microphone and pleaded with the audience to contribute to the uplifting of the community, instead of only “complaining.”
"I need you all to take the message back to the block,” she said. “I'm just one crazy alderman.”
Murder victims' friends and family line up along 79th Street for a massive anti-violence rally Saturday. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
Kyana Mallone, 18, traveled from Old Town with friends and family. The Old Town resident lost her 21-year-old boyfriend Jeremy Parker a few weeks ago, May 3. He was fatally shot on the 7400 block of South Maplewood Avenue in a driveby shooting, police said.
“I really feel like Chicago is getting out of hand it’s just crazy and sad how everyday somebody is getting shot and it’s all over [Facebook] and it’s just really sad,” Mallone said.
She described Parker as a great man who was funny and loving person. He was also a musician, she said.
She said wanted to support the event because the violence is getting out of hand.
“I hope it really works and it gets to the people and they stop shooting,” Mallone said. “It’s really affecting everybody.”
Parker's cousin Tyieashia Skipper joined Mallone. She learned about the event through Facebook. She said she didn't want to miss out.
"I don’t know what it’s going to take for us to try and end this violence that we’re seeing, but letting people know that we’re pulling together is the first step to at least starting a conversation," she said.
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