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"Don't shoot. I want to be a football player."

The plastic letters were inexpertly glued to a black poster board held by 10-year-old Jean Pierre Larue during last Sunday's Stop the Violence rally in York City. But the fact that some of them were on the verge of falling off didn't make the message any less poignant.

Jean Pierre's thoughts were shared by many other children at the rally.

Mariah Ream, 14, often refuses to leave her York City house out of fear, her mother said.

"I don't like living here," Mariah said, adding that she is afraid of being shot. She said she hopes to move out of the city.

Her friend Diamani Simon, 13, said the recent spate of shootings has had a negative impact on their lives.

"It makes us scared to do anything, anywhere," Diamani said.

You can't blame them for being scared. There have been at least 13 shootings in the city in the past three weeks with one fatality.

That fatality was DaKeem Dennison, 19, who police say was targeted while inside a house on Pennsylvania Avenue along with another young man. As many as four people broke in and opened fire on the pair on Dec. 18.

In another shooting, Tavon Goff, 21, was shot in the neck Dec. 27. He went straight from being treated at York Hospital for his wound to York County Prison on an outstanding warrant.

Dennison was only a few years removed from Mariah, Diamani and Jean Pierre. So is Goff, whose life seems to be in a spiral of violence. He'll be spending the next three to six years in state prison for a felony drug offense.

Sunday's rally was an effort to give the kids who haven't fallen into the trap of violence a chance to grow up without fear.

Organizer John Beck had planned to hold the next march when the weather gets warmer, but he decided it couldn't wait.

About 50 people took the time to join him and declare that they will not accept violence as a part of everyday life in York City.

We applaud those adults and children who are willing to step out and say this has to stop.

Children should never have to grow up with the fear these children shared. They should be able to go outside to play, visit friends' houses, go to the corner store without thinking that they will never come home.

Adults are the ones who need to be out there spreading the word that the violence will not be tolerated.

The children who are saying that are showing they are more mature than some of their elders.

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