Controversy surrounds lot full of wooden crosses in Englewood

FOX 32 NEWS - A lot full of crosses is creating a lot of controversy on Chicago’s South Side.

“You see all these, these are peoples and kids and loved ones that got killed to gun violence, this is one of them, this is my daughter,” said Rochetta Tyler, whose daughter Michelle Pearson was murdered this year.

Tyler is adamant in her support of the crosses, and the man behind them, whose goal has been to honor victims of Chicago's gun violence.
“Here I'm jumping in and making it as Arlington National Cemetery, you know, which that's actually my intention, but not offend,” said Aurora carpenter Greg Zanis, who bought the lot and plans to erect crosses in honor of every Chicago murder victim this year.

Zanis has traveled around the country to put up cross memorials.

“I don't know his reasons or why he did it, but it's gracious that he did this,” Tyler said.

But not everyone shares her views. Many who live in Englewood look at the crosses and see a troubling reminder of violence, which they see as harmful, especially to children.

“It's not healthy, mentally it is not healthy for them to constantly see these crosses out here,” said Helen Tyner.

One community activist threatened to remove the crosses, but later backed off.

“It symbolizes death, it doesn't symbolize the life that we've been trying to bring in to the community for the past couple of years,” said Tamar Manasseh, a community activist who grew up in the 5500 block of South Bishop, right across from Zanis’ cross lot.

Manasseh was criticized by some murder victims relatives for ignoring them.

“Did you ever think about how we felt, how we feel, did you ever sit up here, grab every name off of these crosses and find out whose parents they are and how they feel about what's going on right here,” said Rochetta Tyler with tears streaming down her cheeks.

But in all the emotions stirred up by this lot and what might become of the crosses, there appeared to be some understanding. Tyner and Zanis talked and ended their conversation with a hug. There was also some realization that maybe the crosses aren't the real problem.

“It unmasked the fact that we need to have a much deeper conversation than geography of some crosses. We need to have a conversation about the cause of the crosses in the first place. That's what the true problem is,” Manasseh said.

Zanis said he would work with the community and if someone can provide him another place to move his crosses, he would be open to do that.