Austin march remembers Civil Rights icon

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On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, West and South Side residents gathered to speak out against violence and urge others to break the code of silence that keeps murderers on the streets.

King’s words echoed through Austin’s streets Thursday as about 60 residents marched from Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., to the 1700 block of North Luna Avenue, just 10 houses from where 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was killed by a stray bullet last June.

“I don’t know what it is, why you all aren’t stepping up and saying anything,” said Ashake Banks, Heaven’s mother. “Somebody got to say something.”

Banks warned residents that it could easily be their children who get killed and urged anyone with information about the unsolved murders to come forward.

“You all need to break the code of silence,” she said.

The Rev. Ira Acree, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the Rev. Michael Pfleger and other West and South Side pastors led the rally, chanting “stop the violence, save our children,” as the group made its way through several blocked-off streets.

Bystanders rallied with the marchers, joining the chants from porches, cars and houses. Jackson Sr. and Acree stepped away from the group to grab a couple of gentlemen who were huddled on the corner and brought them to the front of the march.

Acree, who organized the march, called Chicago “the epicenter of homicides” and said the code of silence is only adding to it.

“We cannot sit idly by and do nothing with the violence crisis in Chicago,” Acree said. “The code of silence is real. People are afraid to come forward.”

At 6:05 p.m., a moment of silence marked the exact time King was killed by a sniper’s bullet.

“We can’t let one bullet kill a movement,” Jackson Sr. said. “We fight to end the violence.”

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy recently told ABC7 the city experienced a 69 percent decrease in homicides in the month of March, compared to last year.

Last year, Austin had the most homicides of any community – 37 – according to a map provided by Acree. Redeye’s homicide tracker shows 36.

For some of Thursday’s marchers, those statistics aren’t just numbers, they include their children.

Donna Hall had to be persuaded to come to the rally. Since the loss of her son, Marshall Hall, Donna hasn’t left the house much, even to go to work.

Marshall Hall was killed last January while he was with his friends at a Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen in Austin.

“It’s not easy to get out of the house,” said Donna Hall. “I can’t deal with it.”

For one South Side resident, Thursday’s march meant more than just King’s remembrance.

On the same 45th anniversary day of King’s assassination, in the same hour, Pamela Bosley’s son, Terrell Bosley, was killed.

“It was so hard to come [to the march],” Pamela Bosley said. “I have to have some type of push to get up, so I was grateful that they put this together today.”

Terrell was on church grounds helping his friend take drums out of a car when he was shot in 2006. The shooter was never caught, and Pamela Bosley said she knows one reason why.

“The people in the neighborhoods are not talking,” she said. “I need them to end that code of silence.”

View photos from Thursday’s march.

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