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Residents rally for peace after slew of Norfolk shootings

Jordan Crawford | 7/29/2014, 12:11 p.m.
Hampton Roads residents gathered recently in Norfolk for a peaceful rally and march in hopes of eliminating violence in their ...
Andrew Shannon, the local president of the SCLC, said there is a sense of urgency to address violence in the community.

People from across Hampton Roads gathered in Norfolk for a peace rally and march Saturday.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Peninsula Chapter.

The group met at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza in Norfolk. Former candidate for Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor E.W. Jackson led the group in prayer and spoke about violence in the community.

Andrew Shannon, the local president of SCLC, said there is a sense of urgency to address violence in the community.

In Norfolk, there were 15 people shot over the July Fourth holiday weekend.

More recently, Norfolk police said someone shot and killed a man and woman inside their home on Portview Avenue last Monday. Then last Wednesday morning, a man was shot and killed on Jason Avenue.

“It is a sense of urgency that we come together and we show love and we show compassion,” said Shannon.

One of the reasons Shannon said he wanted to bring people together is to find out what needs to be done in the community to stop the unnecessary violence.

Many at the rally said the best thing to do is to reach out and protect the youth.

“Parents need to get more involved in what their children are doing now,” said Anita English, who was watching her daughter participate in the marching band.

Katrina Toussant was at the rally to support her daughter in the band. She added, “We need activities such as the band or other things going on, to let the kids know that adults care about them. There are positive things they can do other than just hanging around negativity all the time.”

New Generation All Star Band also played.

“The violence has to stop,” said Demonte Harris, a member of The New Generation Community Marching Band. Harris and Antonio Stephenson lost their brother to a violent crime three years ago.

“It was hard, like, up every night crying, trying to think, calling his phone, knowing that he’s not coming back,” recalled Harris. “I mean it hurts to this day.”

“The kids, I see a lot of kids dying. I don’t like that, man,” Stephenson shared. “We can recruit to keep people from doing bad things and do good things. That’s what we’re out here for.”

Michael Thornton also attended the rally. Thornton admitted to making bad choices in the past. He spent time in prison as a result. Now that he’s out, he said he’s trying to guide his nieces and nephews. He believes, the key to making a better community, is keeping young kids involved in recreation centers and youth programs.

Norfolk has seen an increase in its homicide rate, with 24 on the books so far this year.

“If they could do something they wouldn’t be out here shooting nothing anything up or killing nobody,” said Thornton. “If they have jobs out here, if they go to work, they wouldn’t be out here doing that.”