Hundreds of Chicagoans poured into the streets on the city's West Side Sunday to rally against youth violence not only in solidarity with slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, but also to raise awareness of local victims of gun violence.
Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, led the Palm Sunday march and wore a hoodie out of support for Martin. He told the Chicago Sun-Times, "At some point, we have to stop this vicious cycle of urban violence."
"[W]e would be hypocrites to stand hear and cry out for justice for Trayvon Martin when we've got young boys and young girls being gunned down right under our nose," Acree added, according to ABC Chicago.
The rally came on the heels of another violent night in Chicago. Saturday evening into early Sunday, at least nine individuals were wounded by gun violence, including one man slain in a shooting police believe may be related to the same ongoing conflict between two rival gangs in the area that claimed the life of 6-year-old Aliyah Shell last month. Thursday, two people were killed and 11 wounded by gun violence, including a 16-year-old male shot inside a convenience store.
Protesters called on city officials and state lawmakers to take a more active role in helping prevent violence by increasing funding for mentoring programs and creating summer jobs for youth, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Marchers chanted,"No justice, no peace," and "Stop the violence, save the children," the Sun-Times reports.
Among those marching in the Sunday rally was Willie Williams Jr., whose 17-year-old sun was gun down outside a theater six years ago.
"It touches everyone," Virgil Allen, a St. John deacon told the Tribune. "I could have been my son."
The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson participated in a rally for Martin in Miami, his hometown. Singer Chaka Khan, basketball stars Alonzo Mourning and Isaiah Thomas and Rep. Frederica Wilson also took part in the event. Martin's father told the crowd he would not stop fighting "for my Trayvon and for your Trayvon."
Martin's shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, has yet to be arrested, though state and federal authorities are investigating the incident.