Weekend violence kills Chicago students

March 30, 2008 9:11:52 PM PDT
The shootings made for another violent weekend in Chicago where, once again, teenagers were targeted.More than 20 Chicago Public School students have been killed in this academic year, two of them over the past weekend. Five others were wounded in weekend gunfire.

Every time gun violence against Chicago's youth occurs, communities ask the same questions: 'Why is this violence happening? And what can be done to stop it?

Church leaders held a special service Sunday in hopes of answering some of those questions and giving comfort to neighborhoods and residents across the city of Chicago.

The church leaders were joined by city activists who said Chicago's children are under siege and under attack by gang and gun violence. Their message to the public is that its up to parents and the larger community to protect them.

Student Ashley Jackson painfully told her church Sunday how she saw fellow student Chavez Clark gunned down in the parking lot Simeon high school the day before.

"He fell right in front of me," she said.

Moments later, as the grandmother spoke, Ashley Jackson fainted during the special prayer service held in response to violence against teens.

"Communities have to respond. We must do that," said Bishop Jerry Jones of the Apostolic Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The weekend of violence began with the murder of 15-year-old Miguel Pedro, who was shot in the back as he walked to a corner store Friday night. Hours later, 18-year-old Chavez Clark was shot and killed after he attended weekend classes at Simeon.

The attacks came even as Chicago had yet to recover from the gang violence that claimed the life of Crane High School student Ruben Ivy and injured several others in recent weeks.

Father Michael Pfleger says there needs to be a state of emergency over the recent shootings involving students.

"Kids always get mad. They always have arguments, and people do stupid things when they're young. If I'm mad at you, and I have a gun on me, then I will use that instead of words or a fistfight," Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina told ABC7 Chicago.

Chavez Clark attended St. Sabina.

Ministers, politicians and community activists are trying to figure out what can be done.

"Too often we put up a makeshift memorial and we put up flowers and teddy bears and then they are removed and we go back to business as usual," said a woman who identified herself as EvAngel Mamadee YHWHnewBN.

"To make a change, some say parents need to step. Tougher gun laws are also needed," Carrie Austin, Alderman of Chicago's 34th Ward, said. "Search your kid's room. Since when did they become in charge? You have to be in charge."

Psychologists say the violence is not just about anger, but how about teens are dealing with it.

"It's learned. It's something maybe they have grown up with. They have seen their families and seen domestic violence occur in the home. Of course, violence is on the streets. [If they see] this is the only way to act out when I'm angry, to act out on negative feelings, they don't learn the positive coping skills," said anger management specialist Lynette Hoy.

Members of Ceasefire, the anti-violence group, says the state can begin solving the problem by bringing back the millions of dollars to fund the program cut in the budget.

"Ceasefire is one of the weapons we have, and we are not using it," the group's Rev. Robin Hood.

Ceasefire is a 13-year-old organization that focuses on street-level outreach and conflict resolution. More than 100 Ceasefire outreach workers lost their jobs after the state cut funding.

In the meantime, Fr. Pfleger will return to the Thompson Center Tuesday to continue his push for tougher gun laws. Every time a Chicago Public School student is killed, Pfleger holds a rally at the State of Illinois building.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan was scheduled to go to Simeon high school Monday. He said he will continue to apply pressure on Springfield to get tougher gun laws.


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