Community activists and politicians staged an anti-violence demonstration –billed a March for Peace– on April 13 to protest violence and senseless shootings in the city by marching to the Tyler House apartment building, the scene of a drive-by shooting in March that left 13 people wounded.

“Thirteen people got shot about five blocks away and somebody decided to use violence as a tool for getting revenge,” said Joyce Robinson-Paul, ANC Commissioner 5E, as the marchers began to gather near coffee shop in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. “We’re saying stop the violence and get with the peace. It’s going to be a long, hot summer and we’re trying to start early in the spring.”

The “March for Peace” comes on the heels of two recent shooting deaths in the city: 24 year-old Mikal Hudnall on April 12 and 16 year-old Darius Cannon on April 7. Both men were killed in Southeast. Cannon was the first person under 18 to be shot and killed in the District in 2013.

This year the city has reported 19 homicides, a decrease from the 20 homicides reported at this same time in 2012, according to D.C. police statistics. Last year the city recorded 88 homicides for the entire year, the first time homicides dropped below 100 since the 1960’s, according to Homicide Watch D.C., a web site that covers every murder in the District.

While homicides have dropped, violent crime and shootings continue to be frequent occurrences. This year police have reported 557 assaults with dangerous weapons, a decrease from the 584 in 2012 at this time. 2012 overall recorded 2,356 of these violent crimes, an increase from the 2,213 recorded in 2011. (CQ)

The March for Peace organizers say they are worried about homicides, shootings and all violent crimes and want the community to be more vigilant to stem these types of incidents.

“We have to put more focus on responding to these crimes,” said Silas Grant, Jr., march co-organizer and ANC Commissioner 5E. “We felt it important to remind people as we approach the summer that we’re not afraid to be in our own communities. The more that we’re out, the more we can prevent the violence.”

A diverse group of marchers assembled in front of the Big Bear Café on First Street near Rhode Island Avenue N.W. drinking tea and coffee before walking down First Street NW. Several held signs with different messages such as “We have the power to make peace,” and “Real Men Make Peace in Our Streets.”

Among the marchers were Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), David Grosso (D-At-Large) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) who said the city can do more to help communities struggling with violent crime.

“We’ve got resources in the city, particularly given how flush our coffers are with money, to address some of the shortcomings that exist in these communities,” said McDuffie. “It’s about aligning the public resources with the need that exists in the community. We need to do a better job of that.”

Community activist and march co-0organizer Tony Lewis Jr. agrees with McDuffie that elected officials are not adequately addressing crime.

“Especially in light of the response when 13 people got shot in our city and the mayor doesn’t even respond,” Lewis said. “He just said nothing and I think that has further implications about the value of life in communities like Tyler House.”

As the crowd rounded the corner of North Capitol and M Street NW nearing the front of Tyler House, they stopped to observe the spot where the shooting occurred.

In the early morning hours of March 11 the Fur nightclub near the intersection of Patterson and North Capitol Street NE was letting out. Several people had crossed North Capitol and were standing outside of the Tyler House apartment building. Two cars speeding south on North Capitol Street opened fire on people standing outside the building and 13 were shot. D.C. Police charged Craig Steve Wilson, 19, of Southeast with assault with attempt to kill in the mass shooting.

As the marchers walked up the busy North Capitol Street past the Tyler House, they held signs that read “Honk For Peace In Our Streets.” Some cars driving by started to honk frantically in noisy displays of support.

A few of the marchers, including Deneira Owens, 28, brought along their children. She said she also feels it is time for the blame game on city crime to end.

“Before anything, I’m a mom. I want peaceful streets for my sons,” said Owens, a mother of twin nine-year olds. “We gotta get to a point where we’re all working together to solve the problems and stop pointing fingers at who’s to blame for the problem.”

Teria Rogers

Special to the AFRO