Community responds to youth football game shootings

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Over the past week, several community organizations and leaders held a variety of events in response to the Oct. 13 shooting at a youth football game in East Liberty. One person was killed and two others were injured at the homecoming game for the East End Raiders peewee football team at the Obama International Studies Academy field.

“Unfortunately for the citizens of Metropolitan Pittsburgh news reports on shootings and killings have become far too common,” said Tim Stevens, Black Political Empowerment Project chairman and Coalition Against Violence co-convener in a statement on Oct. 16. “When children, their parents, grandparents, relatives and friends can’t even attend a peewee football game we have indeed come a long way in the wrong direction.”

 

On Oct. 15, Police Chief Nate Harper said he planned to issue warrants for suspects in the murder of 64-year-old Charlene Walters, who died Oct. 16 as a result of two gunshot wounds; and the shooting of a 33-year-old woman, and 27-year-old man who was believed to be the target of the shooting. The shooting was allegedly the result of a dispute that began the day before in Wilkinsburg.

“The other day a person drove by church and talked to me for several minutes about the fact that we, as African-Americans, have apparently lost a commitment to love each other. He was responding to the incident at the football field,” Stevens said. “If we love each other we cannot shoot into a crowd of Black people at a peewee football game. If we love each other we cannot shoot into a crowd of women and children. If we love each other we cannot run throughout neighborhoods carelessly shooting at anyone within range and wiping out the lives of our young people. If we love each other, when we experience moments of negative interaction between each other we cannot have as our first response that of taking another person’s life.”

The most recent event, held Oct. 21, was a march from Wilkinsburg to East Liberty to honor the memory of Walters and protest the “no snitching” policy of the area’s African-American communities.

“It was a very good turnout and experience. I hope that it makes a difference in our communities,” said Kadiera Jones in response to the New Pittsburgh’s Courier’s request for comments on the social networking site Facebook.

“It was a wonderful experience and a lot of love. Community members and leaders walked side by side and there were so many children,” said Brandi Fisher, chair of the Alliance for Police Accountability.

Another event was held by local artist Vanessa German on Oct. 19 at the Art House in Homewood. German printed 500 yard signs with the slogan, “Stop Shooting. We Love You,” and 100 other signs saying, “Stop Shooting. Live. Love. Respect.”

“I think the shootings this weekend have really galvanized some people,” German said. “I keep getting requests for more signs. I think this hits closer to home, literally.”

Public action in response to the shooting first began gaining momentum on Oct. 15, when Community Empowerment Association Founder Rashad Byrdsong called for grief counselors, social workers and trauma counselors to volunteer their time. The volunteers went to CEA’s offices on Oct. 17 to meet with children and families who witnessed the shooting.

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