A coalition of pastors plans to march Saturday through downtown Chicago in response to the mayhem that erupted in the city’s downtown tourist district last weekend.
The march is set to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, around the same time young people are reportedly set to once again meet up in large groups at Millennium Park.
“We are not walking against our children,” said organizer Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and Progressive Baptist Church. “Our children are brilliant, but we are not absolving them of responsibility for the events that took place last weekend.”
The march is set to start at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue, at the southwest corner of Grant Park, Dates’ news release said. He called on at least 500 men to join the effort.
Chaos broke out last Saturday as young people gathered in groups near Millennium Park. Some blocked traffic, jumped onto a CTA bus and attacked passersby during the mayhem, and two teen boys were shot as they stood in the crowd.
Amid reports that similar gatherings were being planned this weekend, Chicago police officers had scaled up their presence in the area Friday night and said they would enforce a 4 p.m. youth curfew.
Many of the pastors set to participate in the Saturday march also marched in demonstrations after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd in May 2020, said Chris Harris Sr., pastor of Bronzeville’s Bright Star Church and West Pullman’s St. James Church.
The organizers believe the local faith community needs to be present to address violence and trauma, and that men need to participate, Harris said. The marchers will direct young people to programs and resources, including jobs, he added.
“We need our young people to know that men in our city care about them enough to not only get involved and be present, but also to mentor them, guide them in the right path and hold them accountable,” said Harris, who also leads Bright Star Community Outreach.
Harris said the marchers don’t intend to come downtown to “police” young people, but instead to be present for them. The city belongs to young people in the same way it belongs to everyone else, he said.
“We want them downtown, just not misbehaving,” Harris said.
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The pastor noted that many young white people break laws at the annual Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park. Bad behavior isn’t a thing done by youths of any one race, but criticism of bad behavior often targets Black and Latino children, he said.
Most of the young people who were downtown last Saturday were not misbehaving, he added. He also cited a video he made that stated there are over 800,000 Chicagoans under 25 years old and argued that most didn’t contribute to the chaos.
“It’s not that we should ignore it, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that is highlighted,” Harris said.
The pastor said part of the problem is people only caring about violence in Chicago when it happens in wealthy areas. Young people shouldn’t be tearing up any pubic places or businesses, but more people need to get involved to address deeper-rooted issues, he said.
Harris pointed to people who were “finally appalled and disturbed” by Chicago violence and trauma because it came downtown and occurred outside of Black and brown areas.
“Those people have a problem. You didn’t care until it touched you,” he said.