After two recent shooting deaths of local teenagers, more than 60 people marched through the rain in East Anchorage on Sunday afternoon to raise awareness of violence in the community.
The crowd sang “Keep calm everybody, and put your guns away. Stop the violence!” The sentiment was echoed on their matching black t-shirts as they marched near the site where 19-year-old Preston Junior Clark Perdomo was shot dead last week.
Among the crowd was resident Allie Hernandez, who moved to Anchorage in 1997 because it was a safe place to raise her kids. She says now, she’s scared.
“This is why we’re walking,” she says between deep breaths. “We have a lot of parents here walking because we’re scared for our kids. We don’t want to see them dead. We don’t want to bury our kids no more. So if we have to walk five miles or six miles, even though I’m not in shape, girl, we’re doing it!”
Summer Yancy walked wearing a set of charms representing friends and family who were impacted by violence. She said Anchorage is so close-knit that everyone is affected by the recent shootings. One way to stop it is to speak candidly with youth about gun violence.
“Let’s have real scenarios of what this looks like when you’re in a real situation,” she said, when talking about ways to facilitate an effective conversation. “With[in] a group of kids and there’s one person in that group that wants to be irresponsible with their gun and all the sudden everybody is sucked in… it can happen to very good kids as well.”
Nineteen-year-old Brennan Gregiore-Girard said he grew up on the east side of town and gun violence doesn’t faze him.
“I mean when I hear about it, it doesn’t shock me any more, which is sad to say because we shouldn’t be in an environment where kids should feel that way, but it’s the sad truth.”
He said he thinks kids need to take responsibility for their actions and for the situations they place themselves in.
“I’ve always felt like I could talk things out. My mom raised me that way and my dad raised me that way. And I’ve always wrestled and done combat sports, so it’s not one of those things where I’m scared and all that,” he explained. “But why should I put my hands on someone to stop the violence? Because when you kill someone, you’re not only killing them.” You’re killing a piece of everyone they knew, he said.
The community group We Are Anchorage organized the walk to show a unified front for saying no to violence. They hope to encourage people to start actively watching out for their communities and speaking up.