Hundreds gather to stand against crime in Richmond

March 6, 2010 5:39:57 PM PST
Hundreds of people fed up with the violence joined hands in Richmond Saturday to take a stand against crime. A crowd of impassioned residents vowed not to let fear stop them from keeping their streets safe.

Richmond has been making headlines a lot lately following several high profile crimes including a shooting inside the sanctuary at the New Gethsemane Church last month.

The church was quite a different scene Saturday. There were 2,300 people there. There really are a lot of people who care about the city and their neighbors. Many say until now, they just did not feel like there was much they could do to change things.

On the street corners of downtown Richmond, those who want change are demanding it.

"Richmond will be a better place, from this day on," one man proclaimed.

"Never again. Never again will there be violence in our churches. Never again," said Pastor John Jennings of McLaughlen Temple Church.

There is strength in numbers and a series of violent, unthinkable crimes in Richmond over the past few months is sparking an outcry. Starting in October, a Richmond High School teenager was gang raped at her own homecoming dance, a pregnant mother was killed in a drive-by shooting and on Valentine's Day, two teenagers were shot while at New Gethsemane Church.

"This last event, when people walked into a church and did that, I think people just made a decision. You know what? If we don't stand up now, when are we going to stand up?" said Bishop Jerry Macklin of the Church of God and Christ.

So they stood on 200 Richmond's corners with progress on their minds. The group, which included the city's mayor and police chief, then gathered at Civic Center Plaza to celebrate Richmond's new direction.

The community is promising to make the streets safer, report crimes, and even give the city council comment cards with ideas that will help the city. However, only a minority is a part of the movement.

"I know a lot of people that's still in the streets," said 18-year-old Matthew Simon.

Simon wants to make Richmond better but he knows plenty of people who really do not care. Nonetheless, he thinks this might actually work.

"When they see everybody coming together and trying do good for their city, I'm not saying all will stop doing what they're doing, but you will get a good amount of them that's going to show respect and stop doing what they're doing," he told ABC7.

To make it clear that the wrong doing will stop, especially around New Gesthemane Church, hundreds clasped hands and formed a prayer circle. Their arms stretched around the entire church and around the entire square block. It even caused people on the street to stop and take notice.

"It's a good idea to have all this," said Ismael Urvina of Richmond.

It was a symbolic sign of protection for a place most consider off limits to violence. The hope is that once the circle is broken, the promises made Saturday will remain intact.

Police are still trying to find the people responsible for the shootings at New Gesthemane. Two teenagers were arrested but they were later released. All investigators will say now is that they are looking for an adult male who may have also been involved.


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