City responds to escalated street violence with a rally for change

Over 200 area residents recently came together to “Stop the Violence” in a City of South Miami sponsored march that began at St. John’s AME Church and ended at the Gibson Bethel Community Center where neighbors, politicians, and activists gathered to listen to heart stirring speeches from victims of violence. It was the first in what is to be a series of events where community leaders, law enforcement, and citizens plan to work together for peaceful change.

“The event was a response to what happened when a particular gang broke up and members began retaliating,” said Mayor Philip Stoddard. “It went back and forth resulting in a killing and another shooting. The police were aware of what was going on and everybody was monitoring the situation. So community members felt a community response was in order to speak out and make it very clear we are not accepting what is going on.”

Tevis Bacon was one of those moms who spoke publicly after the march about the loss of her 19 year old son Tyrell Burns. “He expired in Liberty City between 73 St and 7 Ave. He was catching a jitney and some gunmen came from behind and they shot him, so he was a victim of violent crime.”

Ms. Bacon has been a South Miami resident for four years now and is working with community efforts to make the streets safer. She says youth in trouble need to find someone to talk to. “If they feel they cannot reach out to any adult in their family, then the best place they can find relief and comfort is to visit their neighborhood church.”

Pastor Rodney James of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church is committee president of Concerned Clergy and Citizens Coalition, an organization that helped organize the Sunday march along with One Grove, and other local groups.

“We wanted to take a stand and let our young people know we are aware of what is going on,” said Pastor James. “We are willing to join our efforts in supporting them. The church can be that listening ear. A lot of times it is easier to tell people you don’t know what is going on because there is no fear of judgment or repercussions.”

“It was a great day. We stood up in solidarity with the police force to let those would be persons who engage in this community know we are not against the police, we are helping them do their job to serve and protect and keep our kids and businesses safe.”

The march was one of the first major initiatives for Acting Police Chief Rene Landa. “The walk was important because everybody came together…the clergy, South Miamians, city staff from departments like Parks and Recreation, the city manager, the mayor, everybody was involved,” said Chief Landa.

“When we talk about community policing we put everything aside and say we are the community.”

Community Redevelopment Agency Outreach Coordinator James McCants was pleased with the event but understands there is much to be done. “It is ironic that the day after the march there was another shooting the next night,” said McCants.

“Make no mistake, we know who the people are that are the so called ‘trouble makers’ and we know how some of this is being transacted. We have the full cooperation of the police and we are working together to deal with and deter this. We are tired of this foolishness.”

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