The community of Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago continues to speak out against the meteoric rise in local homicides, scheduling a press conference for Tuesday morning to present a set of demands to public officials.
The move dovetails with the parish’s regular anti-gang violence activism (including weekly peace marches earlier this year and ongoing gun buybacks) and follows reports earlier this month that homicides in Cook County have surpassed 1,000 for the year.
Three-quarters of them occurred in Chicago, with 81% involving African Americans, and Chicago Police Department data shows the homicide rate among Black Chicagoans has reached an all-time high. The raw count for Cook County is the highest since 1994.
Saint Sabina's pastor, famed activist-priest Fr Michael Pfleger, has led the church's response efforts and sends out weekly murder counts to his ~150,000 social media followers nearly every weekend.
“If it's a public health issue, which the mayor declared, then why is Dr. Arwady only talking about COVID and… and not talking about homicide? She’s the commissioner of health,” said Pfleger during Mass on Sunday morning, referencing CDPH head Dr. Allison Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“If it's a public health issue, then let's address it as a public health issue.”
Pfleger's statement to be read at the press conference says there have been more than 4,100 shootings in Chicago this year overall, and claims the city has been “silent” about the matter.
“We cannot wonder why people are exiting Chicago,” it reads.
The event will be co-led by Pfleger and Purpose Over Pain, a local nonprofit for parents of gun violence victims, and will take place in the church’s McMahon Hall at 11am CT.
Demands will concern the local police department, courts, and city administration—including calls for more stringent investigations and prosecution of homicides, protection for witnesses, and public works projects to deter criminal activity among the youth.
“We’re making 10 demands we want them to initiate immediately to deal with this violence in this city,” Pfleger said on Sunday.
The statement will also include concerns that protection from the virus in Chicago is taking precedence over the preservation of Black lives—many of which are young (and even infant) children caught up in the crossfire of gang violence.
“If you have a black or brown child, you are concerned for their safety and very life. We want the City of Chicago to immediately make violence a top priority,” it reads.
“You can’t get a vaccine or booster if you’re not alive.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).