Chicago students rally for safe summer

June 17, 2011 8:55:21 PM PDT
As the Chicago public school year ends, community leaders want to make sure the streets are safe for children.

During summer break, the threat of violence is greater for many students who spend more time outside.

While many Chicago Public Schools students are excited about the summer break, they are equally concerned that warmer temperatures, combined with the bad economy and illegal gang activity, may make for another violent summer.

"There's so much madness, you see people fighting and getting into it over little things," said Chicago resident Ryon Gloster.

Hundreds of students, parents and activitists gathered for a rally and march led by Fr. Michael Pfleger Friday evening at St. Sabina Church. The message was that keeping streets safe is the responsibility of all.

"Be a positive role model. Set a curfew for your household. It's time to be bold and take a stand. Tell your children no sometimes," said Deneen Bohanon-Silmon, mother of a murder victim.

"It's time for us to take a stand because I'm tired. My shirt right here, half of these are young people that lost their lives. It's time for us to take a stand to take back our generation," CPS graduate Camiella Williams told the crowd.

A rash of recent shootings has left many bracing for another season of violence.

Last week, Maria Andrade's 2-year-old daughter, Julissa, was caught in gang crossfire while playing in a Northwest Side park. A bullet grazed her head.

"I went crazy, didn't know what to do, didn't know to react," said Andrade, who is just relieved her daughter is OK. "God gave her another chance to live."

Police have one man in custody in Julissa's shooting, though another suspect remains at large.

On Monday, college-bound 18-year-old Estavion Green - known to friends as "The Peacemaker" - was gunned down in an apparent drive-by shooting just two days after graduating from a CPS charter school. And on Thursday a 17-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Earlier in the day, teens expressed their concerns at a downtown rally protesting the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs. It is also where community leaders acknowledged the potential for the city to have yet another troublesome, violence filled summer.

"Keep the young people occupied. They should be involved in activities 24 hours a day," said CeaseFire's Tio Hardiman.

While Hardiman's group has funding for summer outreach in besieged communities like Englewood and Little Village, 16-year-old Valencia Pringle said her South Side neighborhood hasn't been so lucky.

"It seems like we're cut off, like people don't care about our safety," Pringle said. "People don't care about our future."

Double-digit teen unemployment and extreme budget cuts to programs that help keep kids off the streets have Father Michael Pfleger worried that teens could end up in the crossfire of gang and gun violence.

"Either we're all going to get involved or we're all going to continue to see the numbers rise and the blood go down our streets," said Father Pfleger.

Last year, Chicago captured national headlines after during one summer weekend 52 people -- including a baby -- were shot.

So far this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and new Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy put 650 officers back on the beat.

But, as the city deals with attacks by groups of teens along the Gold Coast, college-bound South Side resident Prosper Johnson said she struggles with how to stay safe.

"I can't do everything I want to do because I have to be worried about my safety, and I shouldn't have to worry about that," said Johnson.

Staying safe during the summer months is of great concern to many communities. They are hoping to come up with some way to provide safe and secure activities for kids during the summer.

Despite the recent violence, there's hope that this summer will be different.

"A lot of times people in the community know who's perpetrating these crimes. If you know something, you've got to say something about it. So hopefully we'll start a new trend this summer," said Commander Eddie Johnson, Chicago Police Department.

Police patrol beaches

Extra police officers were out Friday evening patrolling Chicago's lakefront, especially at North Avenue Beach.

AB7 saw officers there checking bags and purses as people arrived.

Some beachgoers told ABC7 they were happy for the extra officers.

The police department will also monitor the entire lakefront by air this weekend. They say expect the extra patrols throughout the summer.

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