Civic leaders throughout the city of Cleveland are urging citizens to stand together in a united front against the growing amount of violence in the city. The plea comes after a five-month-old baby girl was killed in a shooting on Friday.
The baby, Aavielle, was out with her mother and grandmother on a routine trip to the grocery store. Aavielle is thought to be one of the youngest ever victims of gun violence.
Church leaders, radio DJs, politicans, people from all walks of life have taken up the call to curb the the violence that is plaguing Cleveland.
On WZAK radio, fewer songs than usual were played as DJ Hazmatt took the opportunity afforded him by attentive audience to express concerns over the state of affairs of the city.
“I got a lot of feedback on my social media, people texting me telling me kudos,” said DJ Hazmatt of WZAK. “Finally somebody is speaking from the heart, because it is time for people to stand up, people from our own community. We look to the police, but the police can only react to what happens.”
“We need people that have been involved in these type of activities before but are reformed and want to go into these communities and talk to these young men who are thinking about committing these type of violent acts. Somebody needs to grab these guys by the face, neck whatever,” said DJ Hazmatt.
Unfortunately, Aavielle was not the first young victim of gun violence n Cleveland. Several shootings in the past month have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders.
Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams are admonishing the entire community to help put an end to the bloodshed.
“One thing I will say is that we all share the same sentiment in that the line has been crossed,” said Williams. “We need people who are concerned with black lives, white lives, purple lives, to do something. We have marched enough.”
“It starts with individuals policing their own house and then from there, their families and their group of friends,” said Williams. “So if you have people who are out there doing wrong, first of all you need to get away from them and then you need to let us know.”
Meanwhile, civic groups, such as the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, are enlisting mentors, perhaps with past experience in gangs, to step up and dissuade the city’s youth from following such a path.
“I haven’t been talking about ‘Black Lives Matter,’ because human lives matter,” said Reggie Rucker, president of the alliance. “So why aren’t we marching? Where are all the black activist groups? Why aren’t we out there now saying let’s stop this.”
“Because of the no snitch policy, a lot of perpetrators are perpetrating acts of violence in broad daylight, because they know no one is going to say anything,” said Pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Dwayne Simmons.
“That’s out the door when our babies start dying,” said Hank Davis of the alliance. “I don’t care what position you’re playing in the streets, all that junk is out the door. Because if we don’t stop that now, that will be the last baby that died in our street.”
Despite their strong language, the alliance nevertheless understands the deep rooted causes behind the violence.
“A lot of them were suffering from the crack epidemic,” said Davis. “A lot of them are suffering from the mental health aspect. A lot of them are suffering from two or three generations of ignorance. A lot of them are suffering from the fact that there is no resources put in there to go toward getting intervention prevention. We need to put money into whoever knows how to do it can attack it from the core.”
In addition to Aavielle, several other children have been killed in the past few weeks: Ramon Burnett, a 5-year-old boy playing football at his grandmother’s house, was killed when caught in the between two teenagers; Major Howard, a 3-year-old boy riding in a car, was fatally wounded during a drive-by shooting; and an unnamed 10-year-old boy was badly wounded in a drive-by shooting that killed his father.
“It’s been hard to stomach,” said Williams said, outraged that innocent children were getting killed because of meaningless disputes.
There is a $25,000 reward for information on the shooters.