Mass shooting triggers community vow to stop violence

September 20, 2013 (CHICAGO)

On Friday night, the sounds of the street could not drown out the voices calling for calm.

"Lay down the guns. Stop shooting each other. Stop killing each other. That's not the way to solve our problems," said Father Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Church.

Basketball legend Isiah Thomas, who grew up on Chicago's West Side, made an appeal to a generation rocked by violence.

"We gotta get back to caring for each other, loving one another, and make this younger generation see that drugs and weapons and murder are not the way out," said Thomas.

Earlier, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, mere blocks from the scene of the mass shooting, children locked hands with their parents and marched from school to school with a message of peace.

"What did they ever do to you? Why should you hurt other people? Peace is what the world needs," said Ismael Estanisalo, Back of the Yards resident.

The Back of the Yards has seen its share of violence lately.

"You can't get a job in this neighborhood, but you can get a gun. Something's wrong with that picture," said Pfleger.

A march for peace in the Back of the Yards neighborhood Friday was held near the scene of Thursday night's shooting that left 13 people injured. The march was actually organized before the events of Friday night, but in the wake of that shooting, organizers expected a larger gathering.

Marchers gathered at the corner of 45th and Wood. Many of the participants were children from the Back of the Yards neighborhood. They and their parents are outraged by the shooting Friday night.

The peace march was meant to send a message to those who would harm others.

"I want people to understand that we want peace, we don't want no violence, we don't want no shootings," said student Brnda Serrano. "I hope that it at least changes something in this town that we are in."

"We need to let our children grow," said parent Yessenia Rodriguez. "We need them to be teachers, to be police officers, to do something good in our neighborhood."

Neighborhood residents said shootings like the one Thursday night are simply unacceptable.

"Nowadays, we can't bring our kids outside to play with each other no more," said resident Jeremy Black. "We can't take them to the park, we can't go nowhere with our kids. We got to keep our kids the house every day because of the killing and the shooting."

"We want to give this message to the kids and to the community," said march organizer Mary Gomez. "Even if they kids don't attend our program, we still want to show them that we are going to unite together and there's a lot of positive going on in the neighborhood."

The marchers are hoping that their message rings louder and clearer because of the shooting on Thursday night.

At St. Sabina, the second annual Peace basketball tournament is scheduled for Saturday. Isaiah Thomas and the Bulls' Joakim Noah are among several NBA players taking the court with street gang members. The event for peace is especially timely given Thursday's mass shooting.

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