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Art=Ammo joins families in protest against gun violence in Chicago

Tracing One Another’s body outline with a piece of chalk on black paper , each body figure symbolizes a person who has lost their life to gun-violence. Photo: A. Ford.

Mothers of young victims affected by gun violence, along with Art=Ammo (Artists Against Gun Violence) came together in the Chicago downtown area to  honor  their loved ones during a silent demonstration in April. The group created an artistic display in an effort to  protest  gun violence in the city underneath the Picasso display outside of the Daley Center .

Chicago posted more than 500 homicides in 2012, On Wednesday, President Obama brought up the city’s violence when he responded to recent  gun-control proposal that was rejected by the Senate.

Many family members of young victims of gun violence, want to make their presence known and express their grief publicly. It can be difficult for them to locate outlets or support, so Art=Ammo’s unique performance protest gave them a graphic way to make their point to the public.

Participants in the action joined the usual crowd in the Daley Plaza and then created an artistic visual to represent the lives of teachers, friends, and family members even young children that were innocently caught in gun cross-fire.

After the stage was set, the “flash mob” [a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public act] of mothers of victims and suppoerters, under the direction of Art Ammo’s creator, Lorin Latarro, collapsed onto the black paper and laid there for a few moments.

The families who have lost love ones to gun-violence  were supported by Broadway performers who were in town for the production of “Book Of Mormon.”  The performers took part in creating the  makeshift stage with black construction paper.

 Jake Emmerling, 24-year-old performer says ” Awareness should be raised on how gun laws severely affect gun violence.”

[pullquote]Videos of the silent protest[/pullquote]

Some people who stood frozen standing, bent down on their knees and traced outlines of the people’s bodies lying on the ground with chalk, imitating a crime scene.Creating A Display similar to a crime scene , activists and mothers begin to trace the outline of one another’s bodies to symbolize the life that was once lived.

Once they got up, they wrote down victim’s of gun-violence names the black paper  inside of their outlined body display, and the date they were killed.

After they were done, body outlines made of chalk filled the entire paper and left many viewers and participants feeling emotional.

Latarro said she came up with the idea to do this after the Newton school shootings.

“I’m a dancer so the only way I know how to commemorate them is silently. I want people to know there is no such thing as good guys and bad guys, these are all our children,” she said.

The gun-control proposal, which was rejected by the Senate last week, proposed various restrictions and harsh background checks for those who wanted to purchase firearms.

Art=Ammo wants to give people a visual to help change people’s minds on gun policy and violence, “Physicality changes habit faster than language”  reads the group’s mission statement.

Many of the members in Chicago the flash mob hovered around each other some were friends and others strangers who had heard about the event and just wanted to come and share their support. The 15-20 protesters and their supporter may seem small for Chicago, but Mark Walsh, the Campaign Director for the Illinois Council Against Gun Violence says ‘not at all .’

“For being out in the cold, I think that today is a great group. Everyone seems truly dedicated to the cause,” said Mark Walsh .

Walsh said he had been working on non-violence events throughout the entire week so week itself had been busy . “In the same location Friday, we had an even bigger crowd,” Walsh explained.

Although, he mostly works with families and groups who feel strongly about gun violence . He shares that in his past he has  lost a close friend who committed suicide. Walsh sees gun-violence as something that should be taken ‘personally.’

“Everyone needs to look at it like its their problem. It’s our problem and we need to hold our legislators responsible,” he explained.

Gun violence is a personal problem for Diana Aguilar and Myran Roman.The two women huddled close together in front of the Picasso display,  blocking the cold wind  as they held a conversation that included hugs and laughter. Both women lost children to gun violence .

“We understand each other so we help each other out ,” explained Myran Roman.

On March 17th of 2012 Aguilar’s daughter, six-year-old daughter Aliyah Shell, was gunned down while playing on the front stoop.

Roman’s son  Manuel Roman, who she says preferred to be called “Manny,” was killed December 5, 2009 at the age of twenty-three.

The women arrived a little before noon and once the ArtAmmo event started took part in the silent but powerful display.

The Ammo-Art performance takes place in public areas but the action is done in complete silence. As fathers and mothers outlined their image the sobbing of some participants was audible.

“We just hope we can somehow change everything and save someone’s life,” said Aguilar.

Art Ammo organizes these demonstrations nationwide.  The organization is made up of passionate people some  artists , mothers , or community leaders.  Lorin Latarro, has traveled to different cities bringing people together publicly usually in the middle of the city. The group of people call for action using art in the form of performance to raise attention and bring awareness to gun control and work together to put an end to gun violence.

The next demonstration was scheduled to take place in Boston on April 27th. Events there, suggest the need for protests and action to reduce gun violence is real.  They will continue as support for gun control grows, even in the face of  resistance from elected representatives.

Mothers who have lost their children to gun-violence grieving together .

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