The weekly peace march at Saint Sabina Church is all about preventing violence and protecting the area around the church, but tonight Father Michael Pfleger let it take a political tone.
He defended Gov. Pat Quinn from some political criticism he’s facing right now and tried to reflect that criticism. Pfleger says Quinn has joined the Friday walk in the past. This time, dozens of neighborhood residents and activists followed along as slogans like “Stop the violence” were yelled from a megaphone and the governor shook hands and took pictures with people along the route.
Pfleger says he and other marchers have taken personal responsibility for an area around the church for the past six weeks. Since that time, there has been no shooting in the area.
The pastor and activists also defended the governor’s now-controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. It was a $55 million anti-violence initiative launched shortly before the 2010 election that is now under scrutiny by federal prosecutors. Pfleger says it was a life-saver.
“That 2010 program, we were part of that program,” Pfleger said to the crowd. “And I’m glad we were part of that program because it saved lives in this community and in Englewood. So I thank you for taking that step, Governor. I thank you when a whole lot of folks did not care about violence in the city of Chicago.”
“We are a family in Illinois. We’ve got to stick together, we’ve got to fight the violence,” Gov. Pat Quinn said. “We are the walking people. And I really wanted to come here tonight to walk with folks in the neighborhood. This is our neighborhood. Every neighborhood in Illinois belongs to the people, not to those who would perpetrate violence.”
State lawmakers on the legislative audit commission plan to investigate the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative next week. A number of Quinn’s former aides have been called to testify. The governor has admitted there were some problems with that program.