Friends and family held a “March for Matt” and a candlelight vigil Tuesday for Matthew Williams, a 21-year-old Chicago activist who was shot and killed Friday night. Williams was playing Xbox with friends in a basement apartment in the city’s Park Manor neighborhood when a gunman fired into the window of the apartment, striking Williams in the back. His cousin cradled him in his arms until an ambulance arrived, according to several of Williams’s friends. Williams was then taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after midnight.
What happened prior to the shooting is murky, although sources close to the family say there was an altercation in the apartment prior to the shooting. Williams was not involved with the fight, they said. An investigation into the shooting is under way.
Williams, a Virginia native who moved to Chicago just over a year ago, came out as a strong opponent of Mayor Rahm Emanuel following the release of the Laquan McDonald video.
“Matt always wanted to be involved with every protest,” said Ja’Mal Green, 20, a fellow activist and creator of the infamous ” Rahm Failed Us” T-shirts. “He had a bubbly personality. [He] was fun, but passionate about change.”
In a series of tweets posted just a few hours before the shooting took place, Williams touched on gun violence, and how it can quickly escalate from an altercation, while also declaring his love for people on his Facebook page.
There have been 335 shootings and 69 homicides across Chicago since the start of the year, only 40 days into 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune. January and February 2015 accounted for 52 homicides.
Friends and fellow protesters described Williams as a funny, charismatic man who wanted justice served for the black community.
“[Williams] disagreed with gun violence and violence as a whole,” says Rwanda Charnelle Davis, 20, a friend from Virginia. “Which was the sad thing about his death—he died from that very thing.” She says Williams had a talent for music and had more than seven books filled with rap lyrics.
“Matt was a believer in equal rights for everyone,” said longtime friend Travonn Harper, 20. “He was a free spirit and not afraid to speak his mind.”
At one of the last protest Williams attended, he wore a red “I Matter” shirt while holding a bullhorn to his mouth. “He had a lot of heart, and would never step back,” Green said. “He would let cops know things are going to stop.”
“He wanted his future kids and everyone else’s kids that came in the future to not have to fight for what he was fighting for now,” Green said. “Better education, a better [Chicago Police Department] culture, making sure everyone has equal opportunity, resources and jobs.
Funeral proceedings will be held Friday at Trinity United Church of Christ.