Holiday Weekend Violence Leads to Protests, Vigil and a Lawsuit

Members of the community march on Chicago’s West Side to protest the death of 7-year-old Amari Brown, Monday, July 6, 2015, in Chicago. Brown, who was one of seven people shot to death in Chicago over the holiday weekend, was the son of a gang leader with a lengthy arrest record, and police say the man’s refusal to cooperate with detectives highlights the city’s ongoing challenge in curbing gang-related violence. Photo by Christian K Lee | AP Photo

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] 7-year-old boy was shot and killed during this year’s violent Fourth of July weekend.

Amari Brown was fatally shot in the right side of the chest while watching fireworks near his father’s home in Humboldt Park last Saturday. His father took him to Cook County Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Antonio Brown, the boy’s father, is a documented “ranking” gang member. Authorities said the shooters likely killed the boy by accident while attempting to kill the elder Brown in a drive-by shooting around 11:55 p.m. in the 1100 block of North Harding Avenue.

In total, 10 were killed and roughly 55 wounded over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, mostly across the city’s South and West sides. Over the same holiday weekend last year, 16 were killed and 82 people were wounded. Police shot five of the people who were wounded in 2014. This year no police-involved shootings were reported.

At a press conference on Sunday afternoon to address the weekend’s violence, McCarthy said increasing the number of officers on patrol isn’t as effective as strengthening gun laws so offenders are kept behind bars. McCarthy has previously argued that sentencing in Illinois for gun violations are not strong enough.

“If you think that putting more cops on the street would make a difference, then take a look at the fact that we put a third more manpower on the street for this weekend,” McCarthy said. “What’s the result? We’re getting more guns. Well, that’s great. It’s not stopping the violence.”

Police were required by the department to work 12.5-hour shifts last Friday through Monday. In a statement, The Fraternal Order of Police, the city’s police union, said the mandatory overtime was the latest example of the city struggling to deal with the department’s overall lack of manpower. The city has relied on police overtime instead of hiring new officers to reduce pressure on the city’s considerable pension obligations.

In addition to stricter gun crime sentencing, McCarthy went on to say something needs to be done to cut off the flow of guns into Chicago.

“Let’s just face it, Chicago is out of control,” said Father Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and an outspoken social activist, after the homicide numbers came in from the weekend’s shootings. “Guns are everywhere and the first line of defense [while] jobs are nowhere.”

Vigil Parents for Peace and Justice
Antonio Brown (second from left) stands solemnly at a vigil for his son on Thursday evening at the corner of North Harding Avenue and West Thomas Street held by Parents for Peace and Justice. Photo courtesy Peace and Justice.

On Tuesday, he announced that lawyers for the Coalition for Safe Chicago Communities filed a lawsuit against Lincolnwood, Lyons and Riverdale in Cook County Circuit Court claiming that many of the guns recovered from Chicago crime scenes came from stores in those suburban communities.

A spokesperson from the village of Lincolnwood said officials were waiting to comment on the allegations because they had not yet seen the lawsuit. A spokesperson from Riverdale said they were not commenting on the matter and requests for comment from officials in Lyons were not immediately returned at press time on Tuesday.

“I think the lawsuit will stir up discussion on gun laws, which need to be stronger, but I don’t think it’s going to be the solution to stopping the city’s violence,” said Robert Torres of Parents for Peace and Justice. “These kids out there need resources like after school programs and jobs to get them off the street.”

Torres’ organization held a vigil on Thursday evening at the corner of North Harding Avenue and West Thomas Street for Brown and his family.

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