Yorkers march again to stop violence

Christopher Dornblaser

Less than two weeks after Yorkers marched to stop a seemingly endless stream of city violence, activists were out again spreading their anti-violence message.

The gathering was an "emergency" rally, organizers said, as a result of the Jan. 9 shooting of Shyhiem McDowell in the 300 block of Girard Avenue.

John Beck, who organizes the rallies, said McDowell's father was a participant in the previous march. When he heard what happened, he and other members of the Stop the Violence group jumped into action.

"We all collectively said, 'We've got to do something,'" he said.

The march started at around 4:30 Friday afternoon at the corner of West Market and North George streets and went down Girard Avenue, passing where McDowell was shot.

The activists chanted "Whose street — our street!" as they walked through the city carrying signs calling for peace.

One woman looked out of her house as they walked by. "I can't hear you!" she yelled.

The concerned Yorkers continued chanting "Stop the violence" until they made their way to Girard Park on Girard Avenue.

The kids: Francine Moore, of York City, attended the rally carrying a sign that said "BE THE CHANGE". Moore is a cousin of 19-year-old Dakeem Dennison, who was shot and killed last month in the city.

She said she attended his funeral and his great-great grandmother was there as well.

"Why should she have to come bury her great-great grandson," Moore said. "She shouldn't have to see all that."

Moore thinks the one problem with the violence in the city isn't just with the youth but with some of the parents.

"This generation, parents are dropping the ball," she said. "They're not being there for their kids."

Moore said there needs to be programs for kids, saying they currently don't have anywhere to go for their outlet.

Mothers in Charge member Natalie Brown, mother of Gus Griggs, the New Hope Academy basketball player who was shot and killed in September 2014 at the age of 18, spoke to the crowd of people.

"I'm so scared right now": At the end of the march, the Anti-Violence group ran into activists carrying signs for some younger people who were killed as a result of the violence. The group, Mothers in Charge, aims to help mothers and families who have lost loved ones due to violence. Beck knew they were going to run into them, but he did not anticipate the large number of people attending.

Activists gather outside Girard Park during a "stop the violence" rally on January 15, 2015.

Brown said she was taking care of her seven-year old granddaughter.

"I'm so scared right now," she said.

"I just want everybody to know, all lives matter," she said.

Brown was holding up pictures of her son, his best friend, and her niece, all lost to violence.

"I never ever knew my life was going to be like this," she said.

Brown said people should be more involved with the younger generation,.

"They need to know that they matter," she said.

Community leaders attend: Around 30 people attended Friday's rally. York City Mayor Kim Bracey attended the start of the rally after Beck called her and asked her to join the group.

Bracey said the recent violence in the city with youth is part of a "national epidemic" that exists in a lot of larger cities that has now gotten to York City.

"It's startling, it's heartbreaking," she said.

York City Councilman Michael Helfrich was also in attendance, walking with protesters.

"I think the marches and rallies are really important as we look to make York a better place," he said, adding that people who see others protesting the violence is good.

"To see people, I think helps create community," he said.

What's next?: Beck said he has no plans to stop the rallies.

"We're just going to keep doing this," he said.

He said he would like to set up "block parties" in neighborhoods with more crime in them. He said he would like these to not only be a block party but job fairs, so younger people can have fun but also be exposed to job opportunities.

A marcher holds up a sign during a "Stop the violence" march on January 15, 2016.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com