RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Members of the Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC) organization marched to City Hall on Friday, calling for action from the Mayor’s Office against gun violence.
It’s been two years since RISC met with Mayor Levar Stoney to discuss strategies to fight gun violence in the city. Since then, RISC claim 155 people have been killed in shootings in Richmond and the city had its most violent year since 2005.
The mayor’s office, according to RISC, declined to meet with them recently for another round of discussions.
The march began around 10:30 a.m. and although their initial plan to have organization leaders meet with the mayor never came to fruition, they gathered outside to read the names of the victims of gun violence.
Rabbi Mike Knopf was one of the many religious leaders present at the rally.
“We refuse to be ignored by the mayor any longer,” said Knopf. “The families of the bereaved, mothers who’ve had to bury their children refuse to be ignored.”
This criticism comes weeks after Mayor Stoney’s announcement of a new $500,000 ‘Gun Buy Back’ program in Richmond.
“Gun buyback programs are politically popular but ultimately ineffective,” Co-President of RISC, Pastor Don Coleman said. “Especially if your measure is stopping the violence in the streets.”
Coleman pleaded for the application of a ‘group violence intervention’ (GVI) program.
“GVI is a truly proven, evidence-based program that has been implemented in several cities to cut homicides in half,” claimed Coleman. GVI is more commonly known as Ceasefire in some cities and was a method originally introduced in Boston in the 1990s.
Pastor Ralph Hodge reflected on the death of classmate Jonathan Contreras.
“Hearing his name today, my heart is still broken,” said Hodge. “He was a young man, he was an adult, but he had some struggles. And someone gunned him down on the GRTC bus.”
Mayor Stoney wrote an open letter to the leaders of RISC, saying his heart breaks every time someone in the city is lost to gun violence, he’s doing what he thinks is best for Richmond, and that the measures the city government is taking are backed by evidence and the guidance of experts and community members.
“If RISC is really serious about gun violence prevention, they will focus their energies on working
with us in the community, not against us, and abandon the misguided and shameful strategy of
trying to use gun violence victims as pawns to advance their position by bullying and intimidating public officials when they don’t get what exactly they want,” says Stoney in the letter.
“I refuse to engage with you on these terms. These efforts are not productive and bring us no closer to our shared goal of a safer city.”