‘Like a Cemetery': Residents Battle Over Crosses Remembering Victims of Violence in Englewood

Residents in one of Chicago’s most violence-plagued neighborhoods are fighting back against a plot of crosses bearing the names of violence victims across the area.

Greg Zanis erected more than 40 crosses in a vacant lot he recently purchased in the Englewood neighborhood, sparking a debate between supporters and residents who think the display makes the community seem like a cemetery.

"I know people are calling it names, it's like a cemetery," he said. "Well God knows it is a cemetery in Chicago."  

Zanis, who has spent more than 20 years traveling the country to erect crosses for those who have died, said he realized late last year that he had been ignoring the violence that plagued his hometown of Chicago. 

“At Thanksgiving, I decided with my family because I had a lumber donation to do everybody from now on in,” he said. 

But the scene near 55th and Bishop has since become both a powerful statement and source of frustration. 

“I understand there is a lady or a few people that aren’t happy,” Zanis said. 

On Facebook, the head of a group called “Mothers Against Senseless Killings” asked the community to help her remove the crosses because she felt it made the neighborhood look like a cemetery. 

“Didn’t ask aldermen, didn’t ask the people in the community how did they feel about it,” said Ald. Tony Foulkes. 

Zanis’ memorial sits in Foulkes’ 16th Ward, a ward that encompasses the community Foulkes grew up in. 

“Englewood always gets a bad rap. There is shootings all over the city, all over the suburbs but it always seems to stem back to us.” 

In a later post on the Mother s Against Senseless Killings page, the group’s leader said she has since received messages both in support and in protest of the crosses. 

“The voices and arguments of those who want the crosses to stay were just as loud, passionate and valid as those, like myself, who would like to see them go,” she wrote. 

The group decided that no crosses would come down Tuesday, and rather agreed to have a dialogue with area residents and Zanis. 

“I ask that we compromise,” the post read. “That no crosses be removed until we can hear each other out. This is not just about this one block or those 44 families with crosses. It's about us all, and we have to start treating each other as such.”

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