Community leaders resume anti gun violence marches in Oakland

Community leaders marched through the streets of East Oakland Friday night in a show of support for neighborhoods hit by gun violence. 

They say it's a show of strength and a call to stop the violence.

Such marches used to happen regularly on Friday nights before the pandemic.

It resumed in response to the recent spike in gun violence and homicides.

Organizers say they couldn't stay silent any longer.

About two dozen people gathered in East Ooakland at dusk Friday to call for an end to gun violence.

For the first time since the shelter in place order in March, Faith in Action, a nonprofit, resumed its Friday night peace walk.

"Thank you everyone for being out here during this difficult time," says Mayor Libby Schaaf as she participated in the ceasefire walk, "Last year, we celebrated this incredible milestone, cutting gun violence in half. But this has been a difficult year."

From the middle of March through August this year, during the months of the pandemic shutdown, there have been 51 homicides. There were 33 during the same period last year, a 55% increase.

"I was once part of the problem. That's why I'm so passionate about being a part of the solution," says Wayne Clarke who does community outreach for Faith in Action. It partners with the city of Oakland in the call for a ceasefire.

It finds solutions by offering resources to those at risk

"I'm living. I'm here while a lot of my friends aren't. A lot of my friends are in the penitentiary doing life. It's my duty to give back," says Clarke.

Community leaders say the walk is to show neighborhoods that are hotspots for violence that they are not forgotten and that people do care.

"I've never seen it pass by my street, but it's probably the right moment," says April Herrera, a resident.

She says gunfire is common in this area. She's concerned that she and her two children could be caught in the crossfire. 

"Nobody wants to hurt anybody innocent, but unfortunately it happens. It does happen, even kids have gotten hurt and killed."

Organizers say their efforts have worked before and that there's no reason they can't work again.

"We don't want people to think we've given up. Nobody has just given up," says Clarke.

Community leaders say it's hard to know why there's a spike in gun violence, but that it may be the result of stress and despair related to the pandemic and economic hardship.