Rogers Park residents lead peace march

June 10, 2009 (CHICAGO) They're hoping Wednesday's safe summer rally and peace march will help make a difference.

Organizers hope that hearing from people impacted by gun violence and giving out information on summer programs will help curb violence in the city's streets.

What started out as an effort to publicize a bible study day camp has morphed into a effort to claim the community for peace and love and to stop the violence.

The sun finally appeared on an unseasonably cold June day, and people from as far away as Mississippi gathered at a church whose cornerstone was laid in 1890.

"We teach the children empathy. When you are angry and your emotions are high...those steps that you go through so you don't make a mistake even when you're angry," said Rev. Wesley Dorr, United Church of Rogers Park.

Rogers Park has seen its share of violence. The stabbing last December of 16-year-old Isaiah Stroud, just outside a nearby CTA station, appears to have galvanized this community.

"When we begin to make peace as the way that we live and we claim a neighborhood for peace, I would like to see peace poles all over this community to claim that there is no space for violence here. We are here to transform that," said Pastor Catania McKay, United Church of Roger's Park.

Rogers Park ranks in the middle of its peer group neighborhoods, according to the statistics. In terms of violent crime, the Austin neighborhood has seen 599 incidents; in Englewood there have been 304; in Rogers Park there have been 119. In Lincoln Park, there have been 62 incidents and Hyde Park has seen 44 incidents since early March. These are numbers organizers say can be reduced with more anti-violence events.

"We have to understand that gun violence affects all of us, whether gang affiliated or not. It happens a lot....we're all responsible as a society," said Sarita Villareal, Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"There is a huge need for free summer youth programs in the city. We're just barely scratching the surface," said Dorr.

"We need to revive the ban on assault weapons. It does not make sense to be fighting a war in Iraq and have them here. The number of people killed here in Chicago are Baghdad numbers, those are Afghanistan numbers. We need the governor to intervene and the president to honor his commitment to revive the ban on these semi-automatic weapons. The murder rate, we lost 603 in Iraq in four years, and hundreds here and it is a state of emergency...We need intervention," said Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Over one hundred people attended the rally. They were going to march around the Rogers Park neighborhood after 6p.m.

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