Oaklanders march for peace, to protest city homicide rate
on September 19, 2011
About 600 people marched from Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland to City Hall to protest crime and violence in Oakland on Saturday.
“What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” protesters chanted during the two-hour walk while carrying signs that read “Stop the violence, peace on the streets,” “Someone died here” and “We care.”
Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), a community and church coalition led by Pastor Zachary Carey of the True Vine Ministries non-denominational church, organized the march and rally as a response to the 75 homicides reported in the city from January to August, 2011. “Only five percent of Oakland’s population is the cause of violence. We want the other 95 percent to join the march and participate. Those voices are not being heard,” said Carey.
SAVE is supported by 38 religious, community and government institutions, including Oakland Parents Together, Pastors of Oakland and Oakland’s city government.
After the march, members of SAVE and other Oakland residents arrived at City Hall, where they gathered for what they called a “Celebration of Life and Peace Rally,” which featured reflections from church leaders and government officials on the need for peace in Oakland. Speakers included Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts and Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California’s 9th District.
Police Chief Anthony Batts said that most of the violence in Oakland is not caused by gangs. “Young people are using guns to solve simple problems,” he said. “12-, 13-, 14-year-olds are shooting others because someone stepped on their shoes or looked at their girlfriends.”
Batts said that adults in the government are not setting the right example. “We are also in conflict. We all think our solution to crime is the only one that will work. We need to put our egos aside,” he said.
“We need to get guns off the street,” said Congresswoman Lee during the rally. “We can’t be afraid of the NRA [National Rifle Association]. We also need to let our youth know we love them and we care for them in order to prevent violence.”
SAVE members said the group will organize marches and rallies to call for peace each Saturday. “We hope that the 600 people that came to the rally talk to their neighbors and those neighbors talked to other neighbors, so every Saturday we will have more and more people,” said comedian and rally emcee LeRoy Standfield.
Carey started SAVE after the murder of East Oakland resident Leon Wilson on November, 17, 2010. Wilson, 46, who was on parole after serving 5 years in prison, had been attending a GED course at the Allen Temple Baptist Church when he received a phone call. The caller asked him to meet him outside the church. As he stood near a cross at the front of the building, Wilson was shot by an unknown person who escaped in a car.
“I was devastated. I was shocked when I received the news,” said Donna Carey, Wilson’s cousin-in-law and Pastor Zachary Carey’s wife. “I just wanted to move away from Oakland, but my husband wanted to stay, he said we needed change.”
Since Wilson’s death, SAVE members have gathered in the locations of recent murders carrying signs and chanting slogans at events they call “stand-ins.” Pastor Carey said they are reminiscent of 1960’s sit-ins, protests against racial segregation where people sat at restaurants where they were not allowed to enter. SAVE has held 75 “stand-ins” so far.
David Kitely, SAVE co-founder and pastor of Shiloh Christian Fellowship & International Ministries church, said the marches and events organized by SAVE are aimed at ending not only violence, but apathy among Oakland residents. “It’s time to end apathy and fear of reprisal among citizens. We will not be silent,” said Kitely. “We are not the answer, but we are part of the answer.”
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