Flanker says resounding 'no' to violence on Peace Day
'One people, one community' was the theme in Flanker, St James, yesterday, as scores of residents, dominated by youngsters, took to the streets in a march aimed at brokering peace in the community, which is being plagued by gang-related violence.
The fearless youngsters rallied through the volatile districts of Red Dirt, Vietnam and Providence chanting for one love and peace with members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the police, the Peace Management Initiative, Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) and the Flanker Resource Centre (FLC), which organised the event, forming a backdrop behind them, .
Sandra Munroe-Clarke, the administrator at the FLC, told The Gleaner that with children at the forefront of the march, she hopes that a clear message will be sent to criminals put down the guns.
"It is just that we need a safe community for these youngsters to grow," said Munroe-Clarke. "We need to give the children a chance to live, because based on what is now happening, they don't stand a chance.
"We having a turf war problem in Flanker, but it don't make sense for decent citizens to sit back and allow hooligans to reign," said Munroe-Clarke. "So I hope that with the children's involvement, they will be able to help their elders see a better way."
Terrified by gunshots
A number of young persons from the community echoed similar sentiments, noting that the violence was not only driving fear into their hearts, but also proving to be a distraction and preventing them from attending school safely.
"The violence is impacting us and leading the community down a path of destruction to the point where we can't even do our homework," said 16-year-old Francina Lawrence, a subprefect at Maldon High School.
According to Lawrence, the police presence is not enough to deal with the flare-up of shootings over the past few months, and she called for greater involvement of residents in the search for peace and unity.
"I have three small cousins at home and they are terrified so badly because of the gunshots that were firing yesterday," said Dante Grizzle, another youngster from the community. "They live their lives from school to home because they are even afraid to go to the resource centre. People want to help to shape the community better, but they are afraid to come out of their homes."
During the early part of 2016, guns barked with impunity as three gangs operating in the community battled for supremacy.