AUSTIN — Hundreds of young activists marched through Austin Saturday to call for peace and spread a message of love in response to recent gun violence.
Organized by GoodKids MadCity, Love Train, the Suburban Unity Alliance, Root 2 Fruit, Violence Interrupters and Equiticity, the Love March kicked off at Central and Corcoran and ended at Garfield Park amid a summer plagued with violence — and youth activists say more policing isn’t the answer.
GoodKids MadCity activist Miracle Boyd, who had her teeth knocked out by a Chicago Police officer while protesting at the Columbus statue in Grant Park July 17, said reallocating just 2 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s budget could help Black and Brown neighborhoods reduce gun violence.
One week before she was assaulted, Boyd helped lead a Love March through Woodlawn and Washington Park on July 11.
“We can’t approach things with violence — police,” Boyd said Saturday. “We come to protests and we show up with banners and songs and dances and prayers and police show up with batons and tear gas and mace. That ain’t right.”
Before kicking off the march, Boyd encouraged the crowd to turn to others around them and say, “I love you neighbor.”
“This march is nothing but love and peace,” she said.
West and South Side neighborhoods have been rocked by shootings in recent months with 15 people injured Wednesday at a drive-by funeral shooting in Gresham, the largest mass shooting in Chicago in recent years.
A number of young children have also been killed, including 1-year-old Sincere Gaston in Englewood, 3-year-old Mekhi James in South Austin, 7-year-old Natalia Wallace in Austin and 10-year-old Lena Nunez in Logan Square.
Teacher Anthony V. Clark said he’s lost 12 of his students to gun violence in 11 years.
“Gun violence is directly tied to poverty and lack of investment in our communities,” Clark said. “All we see is churches, liquor stores and loan companies in Black and Brown communities.”
Clark said it’s time to eliminate the false narrative that Black and Brown people do not care about the violence happening in their neighborhoods.
“We love our community and no matter what we’re not gonna give up, and they’re not going to kill that love that’s within us,” he said.
Destiny Broaden marched with activists Saturday in remembrance of her 20-year-old cousin Jessica Finister, who was killed in south suburban shooting in July 2018.
Finister said she is tired of seeing people die in her neighborhood.
“I want to be able to see my son grow up. I want to be able to see him get married. I want him to be able to see that[…],” Broaden said. “There’s a lot of people that are dying and there needs to be some type of end to all of it.”
Youth activist Jalen Kobayashi said the city should invest more money into schools and building up neighborhoods by relocating Chicago Police Department funds.
“You’re not seeing business, you’re not seeing development[…],” he said, calling on the city to take $33 million and give a $1 million to 33 neighborhoods and “see what happens.”
“Give it to the grassroot organizers, give it to community members who are actually out here every single day doing this on the ground work,” Kobayashi said.
The Chicago Police Department’s total 2020 budget is $1.76 billion, according to The Civic Federation.
After the march, Love Train volunteers passed out food, baby formula and diapers to those in need in Garfield Park.
Nita Tennyson said volunteers operate the Love Train station four-to-six days a week at various locations across the city. She started the movement two days after Chicago was struck by looting in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in May.
Saturday is the second time they staged a Love Train station in Austin.
For more information on supporting the Love Train, reach out to Tennyson on Twitter at @nita_bud.
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