Michael Pfleger

South Side Pastor Said He Hasn't Seen Chicago Violence This Bad in 45 Years

Father Michael Pfleger's St. Sabina's Church congregation is offering a $15,000 reward for information that might solve Tuesday night's shooting. And he said he understands why people are leaving Chicago.

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Two years ago, St. Sabinia pastor Michael Pfleger was so appalled at gun violence in Chicago that he led a march that shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway.

"And we don't see any change in these neighborhoods now -- nothing," Pfleger told NBC 5. "I can't see one thing in this neighborhood that's been done that gives me hope."

Pfleger is no stranger to violence. He has counseled young people and buried them. He has taken on the gangs and complained for years of inadequate police services in the city's poorest communities.

But Tuesday night, he saw the violence firsthand. Chicago's mass shooting outside a 79th Street funeral home was just three blocks from Pfleger's St. Sabina Church.

"I got there and saw people still laying on the ground and ambulances coming," he said. "And the more I stood there, the sadder I got -- the angrier I got!"

In early July on the anniversary of his 2018 march, Pfleger lamented on Twitter that it might be time to shut the Ryan down again. But since that tweet, the gun violence in Chicago has only grown.

"It is quite clear in my mind, having been here 45 years ago, it's worse now than I've seen in my 45 years here," he said. "Babies! I don't remember in my lifetime here, a string of seven to 10 days where we had that many babies shot!"

He singles out a government that he says should be doing more to track and stop the continued flow of guns into Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.

"We can tell you what's going on in the moon, but we can't trace that gun coming in from Mississippi or Indiana 15 minutes away," he said. "They choose not to do anything about guns in this country."

At the same time, he decried the role guns now play on Chicago's streets.

"We live in a city, in a country, where guns are now the first line of offense," he said. "How have we gotten to that low where guns become part of America's wardrobe, or guns become part of what I think I need to be safe."

It is of course, not only a Chicago problem. Guns, he noted, have become a too-frequent tool to address grievances all over America.

"We've watched it in churches and we've watched it in workplaces. ... You don't walk away, you shoot," he said. "We are living in a different day and our lack of a soul and a center and a moral compass in this country -- and you trickle that down to communities where there is such despair, hopelessness and anger."

He notes the lockdown from the pandemic that has caused thousands to lose jobs in his and other neighborhoods citywide. And he agrees that the issue of black-on-black violence should be a part of the larger Black Lives Matter conversations, which have centered mostly on policing.

"I understand that rage and that anger," he said. "But we also must have as much rage and anger, when something happens like last night."

Pfleger's congregation is offering a $15,000 reward for information that might solve Tuesday night's shooting. And he said he understands why people are leaving Chicago.

"I told a mother this morning, you and your son need to move," he said. "I don't think your son is safe here any more."

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