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Anti-violence march in Gary uses coffin as prop

Pastor Wilsleads Concerned Citizens against Violence March Gary May 12 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

Pastor Wilson leads the Concerned Citizens against Violence March in Gary on May 12, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 14, 2012 8:22AM



GARY — A rally through the city’s Glen Park neighborhood Saturday morning illustrated the effects of violence with a mock funeral procession.

Traffic along Broadway stood still as the marchers, led by a light blue coffin and a hearse, yelled “Stop the violence!” and passed out fliers to those watching from the sidelines. The cavalcade snaked morosely through Glen Park, driving home the results of the 15 homicides Gary has weathered so far this year.

Community activist and march organizer Dwight Taylor agreed the visual of a funeral procession is a harsh way to make a point. Then again, 15 people dead from gunshots is more harsh.

“Drastic measures for drastic times,” Taylor said. “It’s our hope that at least one person out here today understood the consequences.”

Sheriff John Buncich, who participated in the march along with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, former Calumet College of St. Joseph President Dennis Rittenmeyer and other dignitaries, said he’s taken part in rallies such as Saturday’s for years. This particular one should have been even more poignant, he said, after the shooting at 50th and Broadway earlier this week.

“More and more, people on each of these blocks have to realize that change comes from within,” Buncich said. “There is so much being taken for granted, and human lives are being destroyed.”

Currently, eight or nine of Buncich’s inmates at the Lake County Jail are 16, he said, and all of them are awaiting trial on violent crimes. They know the sheriff.

“I’ve got kids in there saying, ‘Hey, Sheriff! You knew my dad from when he was in here,’ as if that’s something to be proud of,” Buncich said. “And those darn gangs are increasing like you wouldn’t believe. These new gangs are much younger and more violent, too, because they think they have something to prove.”

Larry Cottom, a member of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, knows that firsthand. His son, Jacob Cottom, was shot and killed five years ago during a visit from Indianapolis. His son’s killer pleaded the conviction down to eight years.

Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram said the violence hits the African-American community especially hard. He said he also participated in the march at the Dorie Miller complex in March, and no more shootings have occurred there.

The anonymous tip line established by Freeman-Wilson has netted 81 leads so far, Ingram said, meaning people are slowly, yet surely, getting the message.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen. It has to,” he said.

Eddie and William Latimer, owners of Lakeshore Funeral Services and providers of the casket and hearse, said they perform funerals for between 10 and 15 gunshot victims per year. The survivors always take the deaths hard, but the violence almost always continues.

“They’re right back out there in the streets, either because of retaliation or (gang) initiation,” Eddie Latimer said. “They have to show they’re cold-hearted.”



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