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Pilsen Peace March Protests Violence, Gentrification in Neighborhood

By Stephanie Lulay | August 4, 2016 8:01am
 About 100 Pilsen residents joined Pilsen Alliance's March for Peace & Justice from Dvorak Park to Harrison Park Wednesday. 
March for Peace & Justice
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PILSEN — In an effort to combat recent violence and gentrification in the neighborhood, a group of Pilsen residents marched Wednesday evening on 18th Street. 

Chanting "stop the violence, stop the killing," about 100 Pilsen residents joined Pilsen Alliance's March for Peace & Justice from Dvorak Park to Harrison Park.

This summer has been a violent one in the neighborhood, Pilsen Alliance Executive Director Byron Sigcho said.

But the march also aimed to bring awareness to the ongoing gentrification in Pilsen, as the two issues — violence and displacement — are interconnected, Sigcho said. 

"These are systematic issues. The displacement of families, conflict of territory, job opportunities, cuts to our schools," said Sigcho, a former 25th Ward aldermanic candidate. "We don't have programming in the summertime, and that's reflective in the violence that we see."

Javier Ruiz, a youth leader participating in Pilsen Alliance's Summer Youth Leadership Institute, said that disinvestment in Pilsen has created an environment for poverty and violence — both gang violence and police violence.

"All of the stuff that's happening, all of the shootings, it's not by accident," Ruiz said. "When you take away hope from people, you give people only one option — to join gangs, to fall into the cracks of what's around them." 

While some have offered up neighborhood watches and called for more police to curb violence in the neighborhood, Sigcho said there was a lack of real understanding of the systematic issues that affected Pilsen residents.

"That's why we're here, to connect the dots," he said. 

As they marched on 18th Street, the residents shouted: "El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!" — "The people united will never be defeated!"

About 100 Pilsen residents joined Pilsen Alliance's March for Peace & Justice from Dvorak Park to Harrison Park Wednesday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Since May 1, 14 people have been wounded and one person has been killed by shootings in Pilsen and Heart of Chicago, according to a DNAinfo Chicago map that tracks shootings. 

An 11-year-old, 15-year-old and 16-year-old were among those wounded in the 11 shootings. 

Four of the 11 shootings have taken place during daytime hours. 

On Monday night, a half-dozen shots rang out in an alley near Cullerton Park, neighbors said. No one is believed to have been hit by the gunfire.

In July, a daytime drive-by shooting near a summer camp in Dvorak Park in Pilsen forced 80 children to take cover. 

Check out more photos from the march in the slideshow above. 

About 100 Pilsen residents joined Pilsen Alliance's March for Peace & Justice from Dvorak Park to Harrison Park Wednesday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

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