Cars whizzed by as they stood like statues, one holding a cross that said "Stop Shooting." They all had two things in common: They are African-American, and they were all wearing hooded sweatshirts.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, along with members of his church, on Sunday joined the national chorus of voices demanding justice in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17, an African-American teen shot in Florida by a man on neighborhood watch. George Zimmerman, who confronted Martin because he looked suspicious in the gated community, said he acted in self-defense when he shot the teen.
Zimmerman, 28, who has a white father and Hispanic mother, was not charged in the shooting partly because of the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows people to respond with force, even deadly force, if they feel their life is in danger. Without the law, the individual has a "duty to retreat" when they feel threatened.
Protests against the shooting have been held across the nation, including Chicago.
"Young people, this is bigger than Trayvon Martin because we cannot talk about Trayvon Martin without talking about evil laws like Stand Your Ground," Pfleger said. "We cannot talk about Trayvon Martin without talking about the racism that is alive and well in America today. And we can't talk about Trayvon Martin without talking about our children in Chicago who are being killed."
Many worshipers at St. Sabina on Sunday donned hooded sweatshirts, which Martin was wearing when he was shot. Even an African carved statue near the altar appeared to be wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and holding bags of Skittles and a can of iced tea, items Martin, who was unarmed, was carrying in his last moments. They said they were wearing the hoodies to combat the suggestion Martin made himself a target based on how he was dressed.
While the vigil at Racine and 78th was calm and quiet, the atmosphere was much different earlier during a Mass held in Martin's honor. Pfleger delivered a fiery speech, telling the audience in St. Sabina to demand racial justice and calling on officials to treat the death of all children as equally tragic.
"America, we demand you deal with race," Pfleger preached. "We demand you protect our children."
During the service, dozens of children and teens locked arms, forming a circle around the altar. One held a sign reading, "We are all Trayvon Martin."
"Let this be a moment of conscience, let this be a moment of enlightenment, let this be a moment of truth, America," Pfleger said. "Be who you say you say you are. Be outraged when any child dies; that's our child."
Pfleger challenged the idea that children wearing hoodies should be treated with suspicion.
"Jesus wore a hood," Pfleger said. "Is he suspicious?"
Pfleger said he has received hate mail because they featured Martin and the special service. In response to comments that Martin made himself more suspicious because of his clothes, Pfleger raised his own hood over his head. He also called out longtime TV journalist Geraldo Rivera, who said black children should reconsider wearing hoodies.
"To Geraldo -- shut up," he said. "Go back to opening Al Capone's treasures."
Pfleger and many in attendance said Martin's death was part of a larger issue, not only of gun violence but of stereotyping and what they see as laws, such as Stand Your Ground, that are racially biased. Pfleger called them "crazy, racist laws."
Julion's father, Mack Julion Sr., 47, said he feels little has changed since he was young. Wherever he or other African-American males went -- be it a poor, middle-class or wealthy area -- they were always viewed with suspicion.
"You are concerned about them within urban communities, and then you move into a new community, much like the one Trayvon was in, and you are still a target," Julion Sr. said. "You hope they make it out alive."