After Highland Park shooting, Chicago pastor calls for justice in violence-ridden South Side

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A pastor from the Windy City’s South Side called for justice in his violence-ridden community after support from politicians poured into the nearby suburb of Highland Park following the July 4 mass shooting.

“This area in this community is definitely not a stranger to violence at all,” TJ Grooms, a pastor at the New Beginnings Church, told Fox News. “There was a mass shooting here right behind me where five victims were shot, literally right behind me.”

That July 4 shooting on the South Side was all too common, according to Grooms, who lives in a city that faced nearly 800 murders in 2021. The same day, a gunman opened fire on an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, an affluent Chicago suburb, ultimately killing seven and injuring around 30, attracting nationwide attention.

The parade shooting prompted renewed calls for tighter gun-control from high-profile figures, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

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Assistant pastor TJ Grooms sits outside of New Beginnings Church in South Side Chicago. (Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan)

Assistant pastor TJ Grooms sits outside of New Beginnings Church in South Side Chicago. (Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan) (Fox News)

Grooms asked for “the same level of attention, the same level of concern, the same level of care that our politicians … give to an event like what we’ve seen in Highland [Park]. The same amount of justice that we desire to have in a city like Uvalde or in a city like Highland Park, we want that same level of concern, that same level of justice, that same level of care for a community like this here in the South Side of Chicago.”

“It does not diminish anything that happened there, and it does not diminish the concern and the care that they deserve,” Grooms continued. “It’s just that we deserve that same level of care.”

Shootings in Chicago raged over the long holiday weekend, killing at least 10 and leaving 62 injured, while 2021 marked the city’s deadliest year in a quarter-century.

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Chicago police surround a house in the 6300 block of South Bishop Street after a police officer was shot nearby on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

Chicago police surround a house in the 6300 block of South Bishop Street after a police officer was shot nearby on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (Todd Panagopoulos/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“Me hearing about somebody getting shot is like a person hearing about a kid breaking an arm or falling off a bike,” Grooms told Fox News.

He said June was particularly bad. In one week, Grooms buried four men all younger than 21, including an 18-year-old he’d mentored.

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Grooms said every week he gets “a phone call in the middle of the night or during the day about somebody that I know or that is a friend of somebody that I know that has been either shot or killed by gun violence.”

Chicago police attempted to pull over a carjacked vehicle on Monday night and traded gunfire with the suspects, shooting one and taking two others into custody.

Chicago police attempted to pull over a carjacked vehicle on Monday night and traded gunfire with the suspects, shooting one and taking two others into custody. (FOX32 Chicago WFLD)

“This last one that I lost was extremely close,” Grooms said. “When we went in to identify the body and … they pulled that sheet from over him, and you saw his mouth open, and I saw his eyes, and I looked over at his mother, and I heard a scream that only a mother could give.”

“In that moment, it was like the first time I ever experienced someone getting shot all over again,” Grooms continued.

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He said “we almost expect these things to happen” in a low-income, predominantly Black community like his. “And when you expect these things to happen, it’s as if you walk around and you don’t have the same level of care and the same level of concern.”

By comparison, “you can get political brownie points just by showing up” in affluent communities like Highland Park, Grooms told Fox News. 

“We have to get to a place to where you understand that when a child gets shot and killed in the city of Chicago, that’s your community,” the pastor continued. “Even though you’ve never lived here, even though you’ve never been around here, it’s your community because we’re Americans.”

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