CHICAGO (AP) — Leading nearly 200 people on a prayer march through city neighborhoods, the pastor of a Chicago megachurch on Sunday challenged public officials and others to do more to curb violence.
“The city has gone wild. It’s no longer just gang killing, it’s random killing,” said Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church. “We have to try and channel that energy and put it in another direction.”
Trotter said he has presided over four funerals of teenagers in recent weeks and Sunday’s rally followed the death of 17-year-old Derrick Davis who was fatally shot Friday just a block from where he lived in Chicago.
The pastor’s call to end the violence echoes what numerous other public officials, religious leaders and musicians have said in recent months.
Trotter and his congregation paced through city streets, chanting, “Stop the violence. Increase the peace. No more killing. Save our children.”
While the number of homicides in Chicago is lower than its historic highs in the early 1990s, there has been a recent spike, especially in some neighborhoods.
Police say nearly 400 people have been killed so far this year, many by guns. Police records show Chicago’s murder rate overall is up roughly 31 percent from last year. Chicago has averaged roughly 450 homicides a year since 2005, dramatically lower from the approximately 900 homicides the city recorded annually in the early 1990s.
Marcher Donella Braxton, 47, hopes the march will cause the whole city to unite.
“It’s not just one community being impacted by the violence, it’s all of our communities,” Braxton said.
Attendees of Sunday’s peace rally marched near the church, wearing red clothing and holding red umbrellas to symbolize the bloodshed. They also sang hymns and prayed at several street corners.
“There is something that everyone can do to contribute to stopping the violence,” marcher Cynthia Mason said. “Look after your own children. Make sure your child is in at curfew time.”
“I know that this won’t stop everything, but I want people to grab the passion,” Trotter said. “If we all join together, we can make an impact.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.