Oakland leaders call for peace

February 9, 2010 7:19:21 PM PST
A peace conference in Oakland Tuesday focused on what the city can do to prevent young people from being killed on its streets; city leaders, police and clergy came together to discuss how to stop the violence.

It was a call for peace in one of the Bay Area's most violent cities.

"Welcome to Peace Conference 2010, in the hope that we will not have to call a Peace Conference 2020," Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said.

There were more than 100 murders in Oakland last year. Now city leaders say it is time to do more than just talk about ways to stop violence among young people. They called for specific ideas from the hundreds in attendance and they wanted a commitment from Oakland's religious leaders to get involved.

"No one's going to come in with a pot of money and save us," Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said. "The reality is the solution's going to have to come from within the city and the residents are going to have to get involved."

Religious leaders came forward with suggestions -- one was to have open door policies in their churches where people can report crimes so they are not labeled "snitches" on the street.

"You can come to any church in Oakland, any church, leave that message and then we can act upon it," Bishop Aurea Lewis of the International African Methodist Church said.

The summit took place at Oakland's ritzy Claremont Hotel, far away from where most of Oakland's violence usually takes place. At least some in attendance Tuesday could not help but wonder whether there is a disconnect.

It was billed as a youth peace conference but there were not many young people there; most who were came as part of the entertainment.

Old or young, all the people in attendance Tuesday share one thing in common ? they would like to change the nation, but they will start with their own city first.