Lit­tle Vil­lage ral­lies in honor of Vanessa Guil­lén

Crowd protests against sex­ual vi­o­lence in mil­i­tary

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY NADER ISSA, STAFF RE­PORTER nissa@sun­times.com | @NaderDIssa

A few hun­dred peo­ple marched through Lit­tle Vil­lage’s main busi­ness cor­ri­dor Fri­day evening to call for jus­tice for Army Spe­cial­ist Vanessa Guil­lén, the 20-year-old sol­dier who was miss­ing for two months and sus­pected to have been ha­rassed and killed by a fel­low ser­vice­man.

The crowd of young and old protested sex­ual vi­o­lence against women in the mil­i­tary, march­ing east on 26th Street, block­ing a lane of traf­fic and stop­ping to take a knee in each ma­jor in­ter­sec­tion along the way to the pre­dom­i­nantly Mex­i­can Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood’s famed arch.

Laura Ro­driguez, a high school coun­selor, or­ga­nized the rally. She said she couldn’t sit at home and stay quiet af­ter read­ing about Guil­lén’s sus­pected mur­der.

“Vanessa was a U.S. solider fight­ing for our coun­try. I think it’s only fair to be out here ask­ing for jus­tice, ask­ing for the coun­try to do its job,” Ro­driguez, 30, said.

“There are def­i­nitely par­al­lels with Black Lives Mat­ter. The big is­sue is in­jus­tice. I was out here protest­ing for Ge­orge Floyd. There’s no way that I’m not go­ing to come out here for my sis­ter Vanessa.”

Guil­lén’s sus­pected killer — Army Spe­cial­ist Aaron David Robin­son of south sub­ur­ban Calumet City — shot him­self to death July 1 as po­lice were about to ar­rest him for killing Guil­lén at Fort Hood in Texas. The case has cap­tured na­tional at­ten­tion.

Guil­lén’s fam­ily has said she re­ported sex­ual ha­rass­ment be­fore she dis­ap­peared April 22, and that they’ve been treated dis­re­spect­fully by mil­i­tary of­fi­cials stonewalli­ng their ef­fort to find out what hap­pened to their daugh­ter.

Guil­lén’s re­mains were found in sev­eral pieces June 30, more than two months af­ter she dis­ap­peared. Army of­fi­cials have said they have no ev­i­dence Guil­lén was sex­u­ally ha­rassed, but on Fri­day ac­knowl­edged she faced “po­ten­tially some ha­rass­ment, not of a sex­ual na­ture.”

Ro­driguez said she wants sex­ual vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions to be taken out of the hands of mil­i­tary lead­er­ship and en­trusted to an in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice.

Fri­day’s event started with a rally at Manuel Pérez Jr. Me­mo­rial Plaza, a Lit­tle Vil­lage site hon­or­ing a Mex­i­can Amer­i­can sol­dier who died in World War II and posthu­mously re­ceived the Medal of Honor.

Most in the crowd wore white shirts — in­stead of black at­tire typ­i­cal at fu­ner­als — to sup­port peace and honor Guil­lén’s life.

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

Hun­dreds of peo­ple march though Lit­tle Vil­lage on Fri­day, de­mand­ing jus­tice for Army Spe­cial­ist Vanessa Guil­lén.

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