East Side marchers cry out for peace

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, about 75 residents turned out to call for peace and security in the lower East Side in the wake of a rash of homicides in the area. The group marched down Minnehaha Avenue from the Hamm’s Brewery to Weida Park. (Patrick Larkn/Review)
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, about 75 residents turned out to call for peace and security in the lower East Side in the wake of a rash of homicides in the area. The group marched down Minnehaha Avenue from the Hamm’s Brewery to Weida Park. (Patrick Larkn/Review)

Crowd condemns spate of gun violence

In the wake of five homicides in East Side neighborhoods in the past month, community members gathered to perform a peaceful march to decry the violence, and show community solidarity.

So, gathering in the golden hours of the day on Wednesday, Oct. 14, a group of about 75 marched from the old Hamm's Brewery buildings on Minnehaha to Weida Park, chanting calls for peace and justice.

"We just want it to stop," said Clarissa James, the sister of 37-year-old Synika George James, who was shot in Railroad Island while attending a vigil for another murder victim who was killed last year.

Clarissa James struggled to make sense of her brother's homicide. She believes another person at the vigil was targeted, and is frustrated at the shooter's disregard for human life.

Clarissa attended the peace march with her sister Chelsea, who said they wanted "to show people that we do care."

Gina Sullivan, a friend of the James sisters, said she felt the death of Synika James and the other homicide victims shows a need for better gun control.

"There's too many kids that can get access to a gun with a phone call," she said. With such easy access, she figures kids bring guns into conflicts where before they might have fought it out with fists rather than gunshots.

Asia Loscheider, an East Side mother who helped organize the march, seconded that notion. With prevalence of guns, she notes, "it's not fist play no more."

"I want these kids to stop,” she added

She called for better pay for police officers and additional resources to help families keep their kids in check, such as more after-school activities.

Ace Glass, a resident of the city's Frogtown neighborhood, said she showed up to show solidarity with community members.

Though the homicides have happened across the freeway from her home, she said it still affects her community — she has friends who knew one of the victims, she said.

"It hit real close to home," she said. "The more people that participate in their community, the more positivity will come from it."

A woman named Gailina, who's a Dayton's Bluff resident, moved there three years ago with her now 15-year-old son. Since the homicides have happened, she says her son has been hesitant to leave the house.  She attended the march to show solidarity for the neighborhood, and call for peace.

Officers from the St. Paul Police Department's Eastern District were on hand. The district's commander, Matt Toupal, told marchers, "We are 100 percent in support of this."

Marchers walked on the sidewalk, holding signs calling for peace. One sign said, "This is our community and we want it back." The marchers heard words of support from passersby and people watching from their front stoops, and honks of support from drivers.

Coming together; making connections

The march concluded in Weida Park, about six blocks away from the start, with a series of speeches from community members and ministers, while kids played in the playground and on the basketball court.

"I don't know why it takes tragedy to bring us together," said Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Martin, a St. Paul resident, called for community members to come together on a regular basis, a message that resonated with numerous people participating in the march.

That message was again echoed at the St. Paul Police Department's Eastern District community policing meeting. The evening community meeting took place as the march was finishing.

There, Toupal told a packed room that he wanted to see more citizen engagement.

"If all my community meetings looked like this, we wouldn't have many of the problems we have today," he said.

Toupal said he needed neighbors to reach out to police and that trust needs to be built.

He pointed to events like the Safe Summer Nights celebrations that take place throughout the city as good ways for police and residents to meet in a laid-back setting where connections can be made.

He continued by encouraging residents to take an active role in bettering their neighborhoods, including calling the police when they see something suspicious.

"You're our eyes and ears," he said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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