A march aimed at getting suburban peace
activists concerned about violence in Hartford drew about 70 people,
which organizers said was an encouraging start for an effort to
bring city and suburban residents together to address poverty and
Most of the participants in Sunday's
march through neighborhoods in the city's North End were white and
from suburban Hartford towns. Organizers said that was the intent
of the march.
"I was trying to get people from outside of Hartford to come
because up until now they have not been involved in the issues here,"
said the Rev. Cornell Lewis, a co-organizer of the march.
The participants stopped at several
locations where shootings have occurred over the past couple of
years, including Elizabeth Grocery on Nelson Street, where two of
the store's workers were killed in an attempted robbery in January.
Marchers passed out fliers to residents
along the route, but there were relatively few people who came out
to watch them pass. Nevertheless, organizers said they were happy
with the results.
"I was pleased with the turnout
we had and with the energy and enthusiasm of the people who marched,"
said Frank O'Gorman of West Hartford. A member of the group People
of Faith, O'Gorman said he wanted to help organize the march after
hearing Lewis speak about conditions in the North End at a March
meeting sponsored by Center City Churches.
Mayor Eddie Perez addressed the crowd
before the march began, saying he was happy to see people from outside
Hartford take an interest in the problems afflicting the city.
"I thank all of you because you
are here to make a public statement about what we need to do to
stop the violence," he told the demonstrators.
Many who showed up are involved with
church and social action groups, such as City Center Churches, the
Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice and
West Hartford Citizens for Peace and Justice. Participants said
those groups have put most of their energy toward protesting the
war in Iraq, but also need to focus on street violence in Hartford.
"It seems unrealistic to say we
need to end the violence in Iraq but then not be worried about the
violence in the North End," said Terry Davis, pastor of the
First Presbyterian Church in Hartford.
The march focused entirely on incidents
that occurred in the North End and the shootings that happened at
stops along the way. But organizers said afterward that they plan
to pursue a detailed agenda with measures aimed at helping to stop
O'Gorman said the key is getting the
state to do things that would reduce the poverty in Hartford. "To
stop violence we have to stop poverty," he said.
O'Gorman said the things organizers
would like to see include a youth employment program and an urban
economic development program. He said those are things the state
could do to help Hartford.
"The state is running a surplus
and we should use that money to help people," he said.
O'Gorman and Lewis said organizers
will talk about Sunday's march and brainstorm more ideas for getting
suburban residents interested in violence in the North End.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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