Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Black-on-black violence has taken the lives of 85 young black men in St. Petersburg, Florida during the past five years

Abhi Raghunathan:

They gathered early Saturday at two parks in the middle of the city’s deadliest neighborhoods. Families car-pooled or came in church vans, carrying placards bearing photographs of slain young men.

About 9 a.m., one group of several dozen people began walking out of Childs Park through deserted streets; another group set out from Bartlett Park. As they slowly marched to Wildwood Park for a rally, people prayed and chanted: “Stop the violence!”

The rallying cry was printed on white T-shirts that many marchers wore. They wanted to call attention to the cycle of black-on-black violence that organizers say has taken the lives of 85 young black men in St. Petersburg during the past five years.

It is not the first rally aimed at ending violence in the city and probably won’t be the last. Church leaders acknowledged that the very people the rally was designed to reach out to didn’t show up for it.

Just a handful of the young black men who are by and large the city’s homicide victims came out Saturday morning to protest violence. In fact, there appeared to be more photographs of murdered young men carried by marchers than young men participating in the march or rally.

“The violence is just senseless,” said John Chance, a pastor at Wings Fellowship Church. “We have to do more in this city to get young men lifted up.”

Last week, St. Petersburg police arrested a 46-year-old man in Childs Park, saying he recruited a 10-year-old to sell drugs, then burned his face more than 50 times with a cigarette when the boy played with friends instead.

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