Rosaline Colon said she hopes a massive march through her Northwest Side neighborhood will unite the community and send a message to gang members and local criminals that violence will not be tolerated.
“We need to stop the violence,” said the 28 year-old Chicago native. “They need to know that if they want to gangbang and carry guns and shoot people, that we won’t just sit back and let it happen.”
Colon’s brother, Ramon Colon, died from multiple gunshot wounds when he was caught in gang crossfire back in March. He was 24 years-old and left behind a 3 year-old son.
“Like so many others that have been shot in this city, he was just an innocent bystander,” she said, adding that her brother was had no gang affiliations and no charges have been filed related to the homicide. “It’s time for things to change.”
Colon and her two children, ages seven and 10, joined more than 200 people to rally against gun violence and march from Blackhawk Park, at 2318 N. Lavergne Ave., through the Belmont Cragin neighborhood to St. Genevieve Parish’s parking lot, at 4832 W. Montana Ave., Wednesday night.
In the wake of a recent mass shooting on the city's South Side, in which 13 people — including a 3 year-old boy — were injured, Wednesday’s march for peace was attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and other local elected officials, such as State Rep. Maria Berrios (D-Chicago). Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) organized the march, which traveled through the heart of his ward.
“The strength for making sure our streets are safe for our children, our families, for our residents, comes because we come together as one community, one neighborhood, to stand up,” said Emanuel, who greeted residents and community members as he participated in the march. “The streets here, and the neighborhood that we’re going to march in, are your streets. These are not the streets of the gangbangers.”
In the past 90 days, Belmont Cragin’s police beat 2522, in the Chicago Police Department’s 25th district, has been host to 22 violent crimes, ranking in at 129th place out of the city’s 279 police beats. Tied for first place and leading the city in violent crimes are the South Side police beats 0423 and 0725, which each had 73 violent crimes and fall within the city’s Calumet Heights and West Englewood neighborhoods, respectively.
Also, police beat 2522 only had nine robberies in the past 90 days, while Lakeview’s police beat 1924 leads the city with 49 robberies, as of Thursday morning.
“This community is together, this community will work together to do everything it can to achieve a stable community, a peaceful community and a safe place to call home,” said Suarez, who marched through his ward alongside Emanuel. “We are going to continue the battle against crime."
Here's more from Suarez, Emanuel and the march:
Nonetheless, Chicago Police Commander Kevin Navarro, of the 25th district, said Belmont Cragin “has its fair share of gangs, and they’re problematic, of course.”
“Marches like this lets people out there know that we’re out here and lets the gangbangers on the corner see we are united,” he said. “These demonstrations are very effectual ... If I could have one of these every week in every part of the district, I would love it.”
The city has logged more than 320 homicides for the year, as of September 23, according to RedEye Chicago’s homicide tracker. More than 80 percent of the recorded murders were from gunshot wounds.
But the murder rate is down by more than 20 percent, compared with the same time period last year, according to McCarthy.
“We’re making progress,” said McCarthy. “We don’t hear about it all the time, because sometimes it’s hard to see, but the fact is, we’re making progress.”
In 2012, Chicago reported more than 500 homicides in the city, outranking New York and earning the "murder capital of the U.S." label from the FBI.
Emanuel called on members of the Illinois General Assembly to pass stricter gun control legislation "to back up the endeavors here."
"Springfield needs a wake-up call," he said. "Give us gun control laws that back up the spirit that is here tonight."
One of the four suspects charged in last week's South Side shooting that injured 13 was reportedly armed with an AK-47 assault weapon. Also, Bryon Champ, one of the individuals arrested for the shooting, was convicted in 2012 of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and sentenced to boot camp.
"Let us go not just tonight and claim our streets," Emanuel said. "Let us make this our pledge for the next 365 days, that these are our streets, working every day with the men and women that are here to protect us."