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Marchers Call Out “Peace Up, Guns Down” in Plea to End Violence

Patti Singer

Angela Wallace and grandson Joshua Berry were part of an anti-violence march June 5 organized by Uniting and Healing Through Hope. Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Chanting “peace up, guns down” and “love up, hate down,” marchers set off down Brooks Avenue, turned north on Thurston Road and took their message to the 19th Ward on the morning of June 5.

“I came out today in support because I’m tired of what’s going on,” said Angela Wallace, who described herself as an activist of more than two decades.

“It’s getting worse,” she said. “The young people out there, losing their lives over nothing. We have to put an end to it.”

Wallace and her grandson Joshua Berry were among the approximately two dozen marchers.

“The violence in the city needs to stop,” Berry said.

The 18-year-old said the violence has touched friends and family members. “We need to come together to talk to each other, come to a conclusion and stop the violence.”

The march was organized by Clay Harris of Uniting and Healing Through Hope, and it had a companion event in northeast Rochester later in the morning. Participants from both groups were scheduled to have a rally that afternoon at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Harris said he will schedule other marches in the northwest and southeast quadrants.

The march in the southwest had about two dozen participants and drew representatives of the Rochester Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the State Police and the chiefs of the Brighton, Gates and Greece police departments.

Steve Brew, leader of the Republican Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature, also attended. He was the only legislator at the start of the march, but he said the cause is one that can be bipartisan.

The marchers carried signs proclaiming “stop the violence” and calling for unity with the line “together we can when we take a stand.”

Asked how this series of marches could make a difference when the violence has not yielded to other pleas, Harris said, “This is not what I just want to do. … This is just the beginning of bringing attention. We’re trying to do it in a very broad way. It’s like planting the seed and tilling the soil right now. … We want everybody to come and get involved and to be able to systemically and comprehensively address the root of the problem.”

Rose Tomlinson, a resident of the 19th Ward and a volunteer helping to organize the march, said some people may dismiss the effort as not having any effect.

“When we march, we bring attention and if we continue to bring attention and shine a light on what’s going on, I am hopeful that the needle will move and some change will happen as a result of the marches. … If we move the needle a little bit, change has happened.”

The primary for mayor and City Council (and other races) is June 22, and early voting starts June 12. Asked if the election could work for or against efforts such as his, Harris said the effect is neutral. “We’re pressing on irregardless of the contentiousness of election.”

Harris said he is involved with other groups seeking solutions to the violence and said all sectors – educators, politicians, families, law enforcement – play a role.

Jacqueline Stewart said the march “is our voice.” She said it calls to residents to let them know they are part of a community and that after a year of pandemic, they can come together.

“People need to come back out,” she said. “People want to be loved on.”