August 13th, 2019 12:53 PM
About 40 people turned out for a peace vigil at Eight Corners on Aug. 7 in the wake of two mass shootings days before in Texas and Dayton, Ohio, to protest gun violence and call for commonsense gun law reform. (Alexa Rogals/Staff Photographer)
By Anthony Landahl
Amid the strains of "This Land Is Your Land" and "This Little Light of Mine," about 40 people gathered just days after two mass shootings, in Texas and Ohio, to protest gun violence and call for peace during a vigil held at Eight Corners in Brookfield on Aug. 7.
The vigil was planned through Indivisible Brookfield, the local chapter of an organization founded to advocate for progressive policies on subjects like gun control.
Co-founder of the group, Meaghan McAteer, organized the event along with Indivisible Brookfield member Jessica Filbey.
Filbey's interest in organizing such vigils started in 2017, after white supremacist James Fields Jr. drove his car into protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, her home state.
This year's vigil was planned on Aug. 7 and, coincidentally, fell after a weekend of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where 32 people were killed in total, and shootings in Chicago that killed eight people.
Last year the group gathered to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at border crossings.
The vigil hosted a few speakers, followed by a candle-lighting and singing uplifting tunes. Among the speakers was Tonya Murray, a LaGrange Park resident and member of Moms Demand Action, an organization that promotes the legislation of common sense gun laws.
Murray pointed to the prior weekend's events and said the overall problem should not be attributed to just mass shootings but to general gun violence. She cited statistics regarding the number of shootings, the number of people killed by guns and the number of those injured by guns in the United States in 2019.
"This is a public health crisis that demands urgent action now," Murray said in her address to the crowd.
With protesters holding signs and one another's hands, those at the vigil agreed that it was somewhat amazing and certainly different that vigils like this were taking place in Brookfield.
"I absolutely love it that it's happening in Brookfield," Murray said. "You always had to go to Oak Park or Chicago, but now things are happening closer to home. I'm so happy. I just had to drive no more than five minutes."
Filbey added that many more people showed up for last week's event compared to past vigils, probably because of the shootings that had just transpired.
"To me, my heart is warmed," Filbey said. "I have goosebumps that we're all here because we want to be and we're all just trying to promote love and peace."
She acknowledged the diversity of a crowd consisting of older people, younger people, those of different religious faiths and backgrounds. To her, this seemed like an optimistic note concluding a decade featuring six of the 10 worst mass shootings in American history.
"I hope something we're doing is getting a message to people," Filbey said. "I'm hoping in the next decade we are able to move past this and get some commonsense gun laws involved and become a really great nation like we have been before all this started."
For others in the crowd, the shootings were personal. Brookfield resident Christopher Crisanti considers Dayton a second home, having attended the University of Dayton along with his sister, who is currently enrolled there.
"Whenever something like this happens, a domestic terror attack in one of your homes, you want to stand up and fight for commonsense gun control legislation to mitigate future catastrophes like this," Crisanti said.
As the current chairman of the Brookfield Democratic Organization, Crisanti offered advice to anyone looking to amplify their thoughts and feelings regarding the political issue.
"There are a lot of political opportunities and civic opportunities here in Brookfield," he said. "I think, growing up here, we are a very civic-minded community compared to other ones, which is great ... Instead of arguing on Facebook and commenting, reach out to somebody and get involved locally and grab a clipboard."