One week after violence erupted amid large teen gatherings in downtown Chicago, a coalition of pastors marched down Michigan Avenue Saturday night in an effort to show support and responsibility for young Chicagoans.
Several hundred people, nearly all Black men, joined the 6 p.m. march organized by Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and Progressive Baptist Church.
“Black men doing the work,” they chanted as they paced from the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue to the Chicago River.
The men filled two sidewalk blocks as they moved along Grant Park, stopping to pray as they weathered a cold, wintry mix.
“This is our city. These are our children. We care about them,” Dates said as he spoke at Grant Park’s Ida B. Wells Drive entrance.
The pastors have jobs and other resources to offer young people, he added.
Speaking at the march’s conclusion on Upper Wacker Drive, Dates told the men they weren’t marching against Chicago’s youth, but to show young people the faith community wants to support them.
“We’re here tonight to say that we will walk in the rain for our kids, we’ll push through the hail,” he said.
Interim Chicago police Superintendent Eric Carter and CPD community policing director Glen Brooks marched alongside the crowd.
Several hecklers goaded the preachers as they walked, arguing they weren’t active in the community and didn’t address structural inequalities harming Black Americans.
Brace Clement, 44, said he joined the march to push back against stereotypes about Black men not caring about their communities and Chicago being irredeemably violent.
“We still believe in the power of the city, the power of the community, the power of being a Black man. I think that’s important for our children to see,” said the West Humboldt resident and father of a 5-year-old.
The march sought to show young people that the men are willing to show up for them, minister Thomas Stovall said.
“The continued effort of going outside of the church, outside of our homes, bringing resources and meeting our youth where they are, that’s how we continue to do it,” he said.
There were no large groups of teens and no apparent disturbances in the area at 7 p.m.
Dozens of police cruisers lined the road near the parks, and dozens of officers followed alongside the marchers on foot and bike.
Their work will continue as they connect resources like jobs and summer programs to kids who want it, Dates told the Tribune after the Saturday event.
Dates understands the fears of some after last weekend’s chaos, he said, but added that it was only a small fraction of the young people in Chicago, what he called “the greatest city in the world.””
That fear has to turn into action,” Dates said. “We got to believe.”
At around the same spot last Saturday, chaos broke out as hundreds of young people gathered together, one night after a similar unruly gathering at 31st Street Beach last Friday.
During last weekend’s mayhem some young people 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.
The disorder led to at least 16 arrests and sparked concern from local leaders and activists while garnering national attention.
But police reported that no notable teen gatherings or associated crimes occurred downtown Friday night. Dozens of police cars were scattered throughout the Loop and hundreds of tourists milled around the busy shopping, dining and theater district.
At Millennium Park, guards checked identification to make sure no one under 18 entered alone during the evening.
Families and friends stopped for reflective photos at Chicago’s iconic “Bean” statue late in the evening.
Robert Miller, 29, visiting from Puerto Rico, said he had seen a viral video from the mayhem last weekend of a young woman and man being apparently randomly attacked by a large group of teens. People had told him the city was dangerous, he said.
Miller called the attack “unacceptable,” but didn’t feel unsafe was as he walked alone through Millennium Park and peered at the city’s skyline.
“It looks to be really safe, really beautiful,” Miller said. “It’s the perfect night, to be honest.”
A Tribune reporter saw police apprehend a group of three apparently young teens who had moments before been running down a sidewalk shortly after 9 p.m. Friday. The officers brought the teens inside the lobby of a nearby TJ Maxx store near State Street and Madison Street and handcuffed them.
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