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CHICAGO (CBS) – The pastor of a West Side church says 57 young lives have been lost to gun violence in Chicago since the beginning of the school year, so he’s calling on his congregation to show their outrage over the loss of innocent lives, including Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports hundreds of people responded to the call and poured out of Greater St. John Bible Church in the Austin neighborhood to march for justice for Trayvon Martin and other victims of gun violence.
They were led by Rev. Ira Acree, who donned a hoodie in solidarity with those who have been protesting the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch member in Sanford, Fla. in February.
Acree also joined those who have called for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin. Zimmerman has claimed he was acting in self-defense.
The group also marched for peace on Chicago’s streets, chanting “stop the violence, save the children.”
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports
One of those leading the way was Willie Williams Jr. It was six years ago Sunday that his son and namesake was shot down outside a theater. It took the 17-year-old more than half a day to die.
“For fourteen hours, I had to watch my son. He was in a lot of pain. You know, I wish that on no one. Right now, I’m out here to fight for other parents,” he said.
Among the parents marching Sunday was Rickeeta Russell, who marched with her two young children. Three-year-old Takyla carried a sign her mom wrote that asked whether her daughter would live to see her next birthday.
She said she’s truly worried about her children’s lives, “because it’s crimes out here.”
Lawmakers and activists said the gang-fueled violence that sent nine more people to hospitals overnight can be stopped, but first they say families in crime ravaged neighborhoods have to look within.
Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) said, “It starts at home. Gang members come from houses. They don’t just appear out on the street.”
Acree said it’s hypocritical to call for justice for Trayvon Martin, while all too often people in Chicago harbor criminals in their own homes because they are friends or relatives.
“They’re talking about, ‘We don’t want to snitch.’ You better snitch, or the next life lost could be someone in your own household,” Acree said.
Dawud Lawson said lost lives are often an outgrowth of lost jobs and economic desperation.
“The reason people gang bang is because of economics. They need money,” he said.
Acree called upon state lawmakers to create 2,000 summer jobs for at-risk youth on Chicago’s West Side, to help keep them off the streets.