CopWatch Protests Police Led "Peace" March
CopWatch, a project of the Center for Pan-African Development, protested the march. School children were forced to attend, as were government employees, but few residents showed. Several of the residents who did attend were there to protesting the march.
The message was clear: the police have no moral authority to lead a peace march; police violence is not peace; and the only way to peace is through justice.
Liberty City peace march gets mixed reception
BY DANI MCCLAIN
Liberty Square resident Patricia Kinsey struggled to get her local neighbors to join in the International Day of Peace festivities on Thursday.
''Everybody, come out!'' she said, beckoning those who remained on their porches, watching the peace march pass by. ``This is for your benefit, too!''
The goal of the event, a joint effort by the Miami Police Department and City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, was to bring a message of peace to a community rocked by gun violence. Holding the street festival on Thursday morning was a symbolic gesture: More than two decades ago, the United Nations proclaimed Sept. 21 an International Day of Peace.
Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning was among the guests who filled the stage near the housing project's community center. A high school marching band blasted classic R&B songs through the streets, and there were enough free tee shirts to go around.
State Sen. Frederica Wilson addressed the crowd of more than 100, most of whom were students from Edison, Allapattah and Charles Drew middle schools and Northwestern High School. She said the event was geared toward the young people in attendance.
''We don't want them to use people who use violence as their role models,'' she said, and acknowledged members of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence, a countywide dropout prevention program for boys. Members wore red ties and marched into the event with the precision of a military unit.
Joseph Gedeon attended the march in honor of his 18-year-old son, Prince, who was killed in a drive-by shooting near the housing project last month. No arrests have been made and though the murder happened on a busy corner, no witnesses have stepped forward, Gedeon said.
Not everyone was supportive of the march. Taking note of the many armed police officers in attendance, a handful of protesters gathered around the stage, holding signs that read ''How can you lead a peace march with all those guns?'' and ``We want peace, not more police!''
Max Rameau of the Center for Pan-African Development was among the protesters. He said the true solutions to gun violence are jobs and job training. 'We don't want `peace' to be used as a pretext for them to move more police activity here,'' Rameau said.
Acknowledging the protesters, Wilson responded: ``There has to be some healing in this community between the residents and the police.''
The mixed mood at the march underscored the frustration felt by a community that has had to bury scores of children and teens murdered in senseless acts of violence. Among the victims: 9-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins, 17-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, Jr. and 17-year-old Otissha Burnett.
Members of a group called Families Against Senseless Shootings circulated a petition to repeal the ''Stand Your Ground'' law, which allows anyone who fires a weapon and kills innocent bystanders to avoid prosecution by claiming self-defense. The families of Jenkins, Johnson and Burnett support the petition drive.