Vigil honors the fallen against backdrop of gun violence concerns
Roughly 100 people gathered Monday in downtown Aurora to remember the five employees shot and killed at Henry Pratt Co. and to pray for the victims' families, the injured police officers, all first responders and the community.
Sponsored by Indivisible Aurora, participants devoted one minute of silence for each of the victims -- Russell Beyer of Yorkville, Vicente Juarez of Oswego, Clayton Parks of Elgin, Josh Pinkard of Oswego and Trevor Wehner of Sheridan.
While organizer Chuck Adams said the vigil was primarily to honor the fallen, gun violence was on the minds of many, including clergy members and national politicians who spoke.
"The freedom to own a gun comes at the expense of the deaths of thousands of your children," said the Rev. John Bell, senior pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora.
"May their (the victims') souls be bound up in the bond of life," Rabbi Edward Friedman prayed, using a traditional phrase based on a verse from the Book of Samuel.
Friedman, who has lived in Aurora for two years, said the first news conference after the shootings provided a "subtle message" about Aurora's inclusiveness, as a female police chief, a black mayor and a Jewish governor spoke.
"I'm here for my son," said Elsa Chavez of Aurora, who brought Ryu, 4, with her. It was the first time she has attended a vigil or rally.
She said she wanted to show "the importance of spreading love in our community" and make it clear that "we can definitely implement laws for people" regarding who can purchase guns, particularly people with mental health issues.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville said it was 11 years ago, when he was a freshman in Congress, that a man shot and killed five people at Northern Illinois University.
He said he hopes the Pratt shootings "will recharge our efforts to do something about gun violence."
He also noted that Aurora has reduced the number of gun deaths, after a time in the 1990s when there were as many as two dozen murders a year, with concerted efforts by police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "So communities can come together to end gun violence," he said.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove told the crowd some people will say they should not politicize the Pratt murders.
"Please do, because we are not going to change anything if you don't," Casten said.
Indivisible Aurora is an advocacy group that says it has progressive values and is an "unflinching" ally of marginalized communities. It organized Aurora's first gay pride parade and is advocating for local laws to strengthen protection for both documented and undocumented immigrants.