A photo of Marc Nevarez, 25, was included on an ofrenda in his memory. Credit: Jennifer Bamberg/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — About 50 people gathered Saturday in Little Village to mark one year since Chicago police killed 24-year-old Marc Nevarez, remembering his life while calling for police reform.

Friends and family of Nevarez and activists built a mobile ofrenda — or altar — at 26th Street and Ridgeway Avenue, just steps from where a police officer shot and killed the Nevarez last year. The anniversary fell just days before El Día de los Muertos, the annual Mexican holiday born from ancient Aztec traditions that honors the deceased.

“We’re here not so much to mourn, but to celebrate his life, to honor him, to remember him and to show Little Village, to show the police and to show the system that we’re not defeated,” said Anderson Cháves, a friend of Nevarez and the event’s organizer. 

Speakers told childhood stories about Nevarez and called for justice for others killed by police. The group marched down 26th Street in a procession to the site where police Officer Eric Stillman killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo in March.

Nevarez’s slaying is still under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

At about 12:30 p.m. Oct. 23, 2020, officers responding to a ShotSpotter alert at 24th Street and South Hamlin Avenue saw someone in a gray Ford Focus driving away. After a brief chase, the driver, Nevarez, crashed into a light pole, according to the Sun-Times.

Nevarez, who was holding a gun in his right hand, got out of the car. He was running away from police when an officer shot him multiple times, video shows.

“Marc is not on trial,” Cháves said before the march. “Marc was the victim of the Chicago Police Department. They’re the ones who should be on trial.” 

Cháves and Nevarez grew up together in Little Village and had been friends since they were 12 years old. Cháves said he feels lucky to have been among the few who Nevarez trusted and called friend.

Activists and family and friends of Marc Nevarez held an El Día de los Muertos procession Saturday in Little Village to honor his life. Credit: Jennifer Bamberg/Block Club Chicago

Nevarez was an introverted and talented artist with a great sense of humor, Cháves said. He aspired to use his talents in the field of graphic design. 

“He was an amazing painter. It was as if everything he touched, it was almost like magic,” said Carla Ayala, Nevarez’s girlfriend.

Community activist Summer Pappachen, 23, said protesters played a significant role in highlighting the actions of the police officer who fatally shot 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in his back March 31 in Portage Park. While under investigation for the shooting, Officer Evan Solano pulled his gun on a driver in Logan Square and was stripped of his police powers.

“It was a very small victory,” she said.

Protestors also called for the city to cancel its contract with ShotSpotter, which they said gives police pretense to act aggressively and leads to unnecessary situations like Nevarez’s death. 

The march ended at a mural and altar for Toledo on 24th Street and Sawyer Avenue, where the group gathered to listen to corridos — traditional Mexican ballads — played on guitar.

Even though it’s heartbreaking to know other families are similarly grieving, Cháves said he hopes the march helps create unity as they seek healing and justice together.

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