ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dozens gathered Thursday evening, just feet from where three young men were gunned down, to remember the lives lost, to promote healing and to plead for an end to what many describe as a rise in senseless acts of violence.
Speaker after speaker took turns sharing the attention of their neighbors, family and friends, remembering the victims of a deadly drive-by that happened less than 24 hours earlier.
They shared memories, hugs and tears. And most hoped for a shared sense of calm and peace for a community some say appears to be growing too comfortable with violence.
“It seems like it’s just getting out of hand,” said Ralph Hay, of Rochester. “It’s just foolishness. It’s just got to stop. We just need to keep praying, and get a hold of our young people because that’s our future.”
Toby Butler felt the need to speak up, and push others to rise up — and rise above what he described as an epidemic of careless acts and a lack of empowerment.
“The reality is, we actually showed up too late because we’re not saying anything,” Butler said. “If we have an opportunity to prevent something by being proactive, why wouldn’t we do that?
“What’s happening right now is a very reactive situation, and I understand it, I get it. People are hurt, people are emotional. But I believe that if we as a community are proactive, we can prevent some of these things from happening because it’s a choice. It’s our choice.”
Many said Thursday that stopping the rise in violence begins with changing the mentality of what the community holds important.
“It’s positive, us coming here to pray, and seeing everyone from different walks of life, different backgrounds, coming together and praying, doing something peaceful and trying to come up with a solution, rather than just being angry and going out of control,” said Jermaine Clarke. “We have to teach the value of life and people and not the value of things.”
Others said they hope a vigil like Thursday’s — although sad and unnecessary — leads to positive action.
“It’s unfortunate that it takes something like this to bring the community together,” said Erika Rios, whose children were playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club shortly before the shooting broke out. “We have to come together to make a movement. We have to come together to do something that’s more than for the moment. It has to be permanent. It has to be something that lasts for a long time, not just that somebody got killed, so let’s come together for the moment, let’s speak about it, we’re upset.
“We have to do something and stop talking about it,” she added. “It’s action. It’s a movement. It’s a lifestyle.”