Close to 75 people marched down South Anthony Boulevard from Pontiac Street to McKinnie Avenue on Saturday to raise awareness about the violence that has taken the lives of several young African-American men in recent weeks.
The Fort Wayne chapter of the NAACP organized the march and rally – Stop the Violence, Stop the Funerals, Pick Up a Book, Not a Gun – from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., calling for support from NAACP chapters statewide. Local politicians, Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York, representatives from the Allen County Prosecutor's Office and the state president of the NAACP were present.
The Rev. Saharra Bledsoe, president of local NAACP branch 3049, said it is time to put down the guns and pick up the books, starting with the Bible. Since the first rally and news conference on the steps of the former City-County Building nearly a month ago, Bledsoe said the violence has slowed and she feels they are starting to make a difference.
“Just as Rev. Martin Luther King marched for us years ago, we are here today to pick up that (mantle) and march today to save our young people's souls,” Bledsoe said.
Indiana NAACP President Barbara Bolling said she came to show support for ending the violence in Fort Wayne. Education is the solution, Bolling said.
“We are taking a stand here today and we are saying the violence must stop. We want them to lay down the guns,” Bolling said.
Darrell Wilson, one of the participants in the march and a member of the Hell Raiser bike gang, said kids see the violence on TV and hear it in music and want to imitate it. Harris said they need to come to grips with reality and realize there are consequences for their actions
Said York, “In all my 14 years as a police chief I have never seen the community so motivated to stop the violence. We may not have all the answers but this is an important step today to show the community that we don't want to live in fear, we don't want to live with violence in our neighborhoods.”
City Councilman Glynn A. Hines, D-6th District, also spoke to the crowd and said it is time for peace in the streets. He encouraged communication between young and old.
“We've got to work together, black, white, young and old,” Hines said.