Evanston community marches for ‘season of peace’

Patrick Svitek/Daily Senior Staffer


Patrick Svitek/Daily Senior Staffer

Carolyn Murray (left), mother of slain Evanston teen Justin Murray, talks with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) (right) before the North Shore congresswoman addresses an anti-violence rally Saturday afternoon. Community members marched from Faith Temple Church, 1932 Dewey Ave., to Evanston Township High School’s football stadium, 2313 Church St.

Patrick Svitek, Summer Editor

The Evanston community marched against gun violence Saturday as police roll out a new strategy for the summer and City Council prepares to debate an assault weapons ban.

More than 100 people showed up for the mile-long procession, which shut down the 5th Ward’s busiest streets as it made its way from Faith Temple Church, 1932 Dewey Ave., to Evanston Township High School’s football stadium, 2313 Church St. The march was led by Carolyn Murray, a vocal advocate for gun safety since her 19-year-old son Justin was shot to death last fall.

Speaking to march participants as they gathered in the church’s parking lot, Murray said she suggested a more understated event to highlight gun violence in Evanston to police Chief Richard Eddington, but he disagreed.

“No, you have to be very visible, and you have to let the community know that we’re not going to take this anymore,” Murray said Eddington told her.

After about a dozen representatives from Chicago-area churches — including one from Waukegan, Ill.— led the marchers in prayer, they headed south on Dodge Avenue, chanting, “Stop the violence! Start the love!” Murray waved at curious neighbors to join the march as it streamed by their houses.

At the football stadium, Murray recruited several nonprofit groups to pitch youth opportunities for the summer, ranging from vocation school to library volunteering.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who was also waiting at the end of the march, stressed the community must stay alert and work together to fight gun violence, especially over the next few months, when police statistics have historically shown a rise in shootings.

“This is the beginning of summer,” Schakowsky said. “That can be a season of violence, or we can help to make it a season of peace.”

The march came amid heightened tensions over recent gun violence on the city’s west side, including shots fired across the street from ETHS during rush hour earlier this month. Ald. Jane Grover (7th), who marched Saturday, witnessed the brazen incident.

(Evanston alderman says she witnessed gunplay near ETHS, urges community cooperation)

Police have responded by broadening their Problem Solving Team to include a Community Strategies Division and adding a second officer to the expanded unit to focus solely on the 5th Ward. Cmdr. James Pickett, one of the division’s leaders, addressed the march attendees at the stadium, acknowledging the sometimes contentious relationship between law enforcement and the neighborhoods it serves.

(More officers, more outreach: Evanston police lay out summer strategy)

“We know there are issues. The police department is not naive to say that that doesn’t exist,” Pickett said. “One of the things I want to do in my unit is bridge that gap.”

On Monday, aldermen are expected to consider an ordinance to outlaw the possession, transfer, sale or display of assault weapons within city limits, with exceptions for law enforcement and military. The council is scrambling to pass the ban before the state’s revision of its concealed-carry law possibly prevents local governments from doing so.

(City Council to introduce assault weapons ban)

The U.S. Senate easily defeated an assault weapons ban and a more moderate gun control package by a narrower margin in April.

“I wish I could tell you right now we’re doing the right thing in Washington,” Schakowsky said.

However, she said community efforts like the anti-gun violence march give her hope there is still public support for the failed legislation.

Summer editor Patrick Svitek can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/PatrickSvitek.