GR residents marching for justice amid ‘week of violence’

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Fed up with the violence, residents rallied downtown in peaceful protest to put an end to the senseless onslaught.

Tensions ran high as Mothers Against Street Killing (MASK), Moms on a Mission, and the Grand Rapids Local Organizing Committee held a walk to stop the violence starting at MLK park and ending at Franklin and Eastern. "Justice, or else," was the message being shouted through the streets by mothers who've lost a child or loved one to this violence. Teresa Ward, Founder of MASK, has been fighting for justice since her nephew was killed in 2005.

"We've got to put an end to it and let them know we are here and coming together," said Ward. "We've had enough and we're not stopping here."

This is the first of many gatherings to come according to Ward. MASK is hosting a town hall meeting September, 1st at 6 p.m. located in the Baxter Community Center. Ward understands this will give residents a chance to voice their concerns about what's happening in their neighborhoods.

Saturday's timely gathering comes shortly after two shootings that same morning: a man was shot in the buttocks around 4:00 a.m. near Eastern Ave. SE and Bates St, the other was a teenager shot in the shoulder by an assailant wearing a white mask around 9:00 a.m. Both individuals were taken to the hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries. Both victim's are considered 'lucky' according to the mother's who've lost a child of their own because of gun violence.

"We need to continue working together finding resources that will be able to prevent some of the violence," said Ward. " If we can prevent one, that's one life saved and one life won."

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  • James W.

    “Coming together” to do what, exactly? Demonstrate to the criminals that they are unified in their helplessness? Demonstrate to the city that they are fed up with all the violence? Or just vent their frustrations?

    This is a very basic problem with a very basic solution. It doesn’t require any new laws, it doesn’t require any “town hall meetings”. It just requires an accurate identification of what the problem actually is.

    This is a law enforcement problem. The problem isn’t with the criminals, they are just doing whatever they think they can get away with, which is ultimately pretty normal human behavior. The problem is that our law enforcement system in GR does not function as a deterrent to crime. As this city has grown, the law enforcement system has not kept pace in its own growth. Our jails have not gotten bigger or more numerous, our police force has not grown at a pace which matches the city’s growth, and its leadership is completely devoid of experience dealing with crime in a city this size. Most importantly, as a result of these things, our laws are not being enforced to the extent that they serve as a deterrent to crime. Part of this is a national trend which has sought to preserve as many rights for criminals as possible…a trend which is now being shown to severely undermine public safety both nationally and at the municipal levels. The whole idea of law enforcement is that if you break the laws, you lose some of your rights. Those are the teeth of the law. We need to re-embrace that as a society, and get comfortable with treating criminals differently again.

    This is not just about violent crime, either. The same thing can be seen in other areas, particularly traffic crimes. The enforcement of the laws is so thin and sporadic that the laws serve as no deterrent. As a result, people are dying. Texting while driving, speeding, failure to yield…all resulting in the needless deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists as well as other drivers…simply because people think they can get away with it because there is not enough enforcement backing up the laws to make them think otherwise.

    Our legal/law enforcement system in this city is simply too weak and being used too lightly to deter crime. We are not Mayberry anymore, and while we are not Chicago either (despite what some city leaders would like to think), we do need to deal with crime differently than we have in the past. If we are to become a “big city”, we have to deal with big city realities in a big city way AS WE GROW. We can not wait until after the growth has happened, to play catch-up. Not when peoples’ lives are at stake. That goes for crime, transit systems, the power grid, and politics as well. Most importantly, that goes for the mental health system. We have many dangerously mentally ill people loose on the streets of this city. For them, laws and law enforcement are no deterrent no matter how well implemented they are. Currently, the way we deal with these people is that when they commit violent crimes we put them in jail. That is simply inhuman. These are people who are sick and in need of treatment. They need specialized secured facilities in which they can be treated and housed safely. Neither jail nor the public streets are appropriate places for the dangerously mentally ill, and until this issue is appropriately addressed public safety will remain a lofty goal to be aspired to rather than a reality attained.

    These marches are great public tools and I applaud people who are willing to participate in them. I am grateful to have you folks as neighbors! These are the people willing to fight for what is right, and not just sit on their couches. These are the people who call the police when they see someone suspicious, and who cooperate with the police when they witness crimes. We need more people like these! But marches are only going to be an effective part of the solution if they are accurately directed at the actual problem, and are demanding a solution which is appropriate to that problem. Just saying “We are fed up” isn’t going to change anyone or anything. It is too vague a message and puts no pressure on anyone to do anything.

  • Bob

    You want justice? You want the violence to stop? Look in the mirror. Stop spreading you legs to every thug that comes-a-callin’, having babies with no father, leading to more thugs.