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Activist Reconsiders Plan To Remove Controversial Crosses From South Side Lot

The leader of Mothers Against Senseless Killings now says she now hopes to start a community dialogue about murders in Chicago.

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Tamar Manasseh

Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings, on the corner of 75th and Stewart in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood in summer 2016.

Andrew Gill

More than 40 crosses have been erected on a lot at 5539 South Bishop Street to memorialize people killed in Chicago since Jan. 1.

They’re made by an Aurora man who has made thousands of wooden crosses across the country to commemorate murders and traffic deaths since 1997.

Tamar Manasseh, who leads Mothers Against Senseless Killings, grew up on that block and said she was mad when she first heard about the crosses.

“Good people live on these blocks, and you don’t want it to look like a graveyard,” she said. “Cemeteries are separate from the city for a reason.”

She asked friends to join her in removing the crosses Tuesday evening.

But after hearing from family members of homicide victims who appreciate the memorial, she’s reconsidered. She said she expects people to come out tonight -- for and against the crosses -- and hopes it will be an occasion to start a deeper conversation.

“We really have to listen to each other,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned out of all of this. It’s not about these crosses.”

She said she hopes to help unite a community to which President Donald J. Trump has warned that he’ll “send in the feds.”

Manasseh interprets that as a plan to bring in military style force, like the National Guard.

“He’s planning on bringing the military in, and anyone who remembers 1968 -- anyone who remembers Watts or Detroit, anyone who remembers Kent State -- anybody who remembers any of these things knows that it does not end well for the civilian population,” she said. “And if we think there are crosses now -- bring the national guard in, and there will be more.”

Dan Weissmann is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @danweissmann

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