The pastor of a Chicago megachurch, who presided over four funerals of teenagers in recent weeks, marched through city neighborhoods with about 200 people on Sunday to urge authorities to curb growing violence.
"The message is 'Stop the violence,' but the spiritual message is that we're praying for the ... violence to cease," said Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church, according to the Chicago Tribune.
As Trotter and his people marched through the city, they chanted, "Stop the violence. Increase the peace. No more killing. Save our children." Many of the participants wore red shirts to symbolize both the bloodshed and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They also sang hymns and prayed at several street corners, and handed out pamphlets about the church. Passing cars honked in support, and neighbors stopped to listen to their prayers.
"The city has gone wild. It's no longer just gang killing, it's random killing," The Associated Press quoted Trotter as saying. "We have to try and channel that energy and put it in another direction."
The anti-violence march comes after a 17-year-old boy, Derrick Davis, was killed on Friday near his home in the South Side Calumet Heights neighborhood. A few hours later, a 33-year-old man, Mushun Franklin, was shot and killed in the West Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side, according to CBS Chicago. And then a 21-year-old man was shot in the West Side Austin neighborhood.
Early Saturday, a woman was shot in the torso in the Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side. Further, a man was shot early Sunday in the Humboldt Park neighborhood; and two men were shot – one fatally – in an apparent gang-related dispute in front of a Bridgeport neighborhood fast food restaurant also on Sunday morning.
According to police, about 400 people have been killed so far this year. The murder rate in the city has gone up by about 30 percent from last year, police records show.
Among the participants of Sunday's march was 51-year-old Cheryl Myles, whose 24-year-old son was killed five years ago. She said it requires her to "do a lot of prayer" to deal with her emotions after her son, a chemistry major, was killed in 2007. "There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about him," she said. "I feel like I have been robbed."
Trotter said he knows that a march won't stop everything, "but I want people to grab the passion. If we all join together, we can make an impact."