OAKLAND, California (KPIX) — Police officials and Oakland faith leaders joined forces Sunday at a rally calling for an end to the spike in gun violence that has sent the city’s homicide rate skyrocketing.
Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told KPIX 5 that he hasn’t seen a year this deadly in a long time. There have been 54 homicides so far this year, that’s more than double compared to the same time last year.
So Armstrong and dozens of community members attended a vibrant prayer vigil in North Oakland’s Bushrod Park Sunday evening. The different churches decided to join forces to pray for peace after a bloody five months.
A church leader on a podium prayed, “Holy God, Holy God, we come before you, bringing the tears of mothers that are crying out for justice for their children.”
One of those mothers is Karen Keasley. Her son, Powell Lee, was gunned down at a Lake Merritt gas station in January. The former basketball player at Chico State University was 2021’s homicide victim number 6.
“I want to be a part of the change that should happen,” said Keasley.
And change can’t come soon enough for Cianna Williams. A stray bullet last month killed her best friend in East Oakland. College student Demetrius Fleming was a passenger in a moving car.
“It’s going to keep happening if we don’t do anything about it. It’s going to keep happening if we don’t speak about it,” Williams said. “We have to stop doing Black on Black crime. We have to stop blaming other people for killing us if we’re killing each other.”
“I can’t do it alone, we can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” Armstrong told the crowd at the park.
The chief was hoping the faith community will be able to reach high-risk individuals and convince them to drop their guns.
“There are young people in our city that are losing their lives at an alarming rate,” Armstrong said. “And it’s really going to take a collaborative effort to end this violence.”
Sunday’s event was the fourth prayer vigil this year. Oakland church leaders formed the Bay Area Community Benefit Organization to meet once a month in different parts of town.
“I’ve been here 75 years in Oakland, I’ve never seen it like it is today,” said Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church. “So we know the only solution for what we see today in the City of Oakland is prayer.”
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