Activists, leaders support ‘No Violence Day’ in Detroit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit – — Parents afraid to let their children ride bikes or walk down the street. Law enforcement officials weary of gunfire and heated conflicts erupting when the weather warms. Funeral home directors consoling grieving families, planning services for a seemingly endless stream of slain youths.

Religious leaders, community activists and others say all underscore the need to stop violence in the city for at least 24 hours.

Sunday is the latest such day in an initiative the United Communities of America has been pushed for more than five years. It’s sorely needed, said coordinators with the group that focuses on crime reduction.

“Our city is plagued with violence and we’re here today because we are pained from the violence,” the Rev. Ovella Davis, the UCA founder and director, said at a news conference Friday.

Her group has worked to declare the 22nd of each month a “no violence day” to encourage peace and healing.

To mark the latest incarnation this year, a motorcade of hearses is set to wind through the city to a rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.

During the event Friday at Church of the Messiah, funeral directors described how their businesses illustrate Detroit’s ongoing violence.

“I just had to meet with three different families today because we have young people who are killed under the age of 25,” said the Rev. Curtis Williams, who heads both Stinson and Trinity Chapel funeral homes.

The focus coincides with concerns about escalating violence throughout the city.

In April, Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced a grass-roots approach to tackling crime after three incidents involving young children. He called on ministers to reach out to criminals in an “urban peace treaty.”

This month, there were 21 shooting victims during a weekend that Craig called the second-most violent of 2016.

Joining other local authorities at the news conference Friday, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade mentioned how recent shootings have included infants and mothers. “This is absolutely unacceptable and we’ve got to do all we can to stop it,” she said.

McQuade and others called for better conflict resolution, community input and other strategies to address the issues.

The emphasis encouraged Lucenia Harvey, an evangelist from Detroit.

“It’s very important for the city because we’re losing too many of our youngsters,” she said. “If we don’t stand together, we fall together.”