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Gathering in Norfolk focuses on curbing crime, as communities mourn lives lost in holiday weekend shootings

Activists in Norfolk want to see change. Knowing it won't come overnight, they acknowledge it will take everyone working together, especially on a grassroots level.

NORFOLK, Va. — Calls for an end to gun violence are growing louder in Norfolk. Dozens came together to take a stand and offer some solutions on Wednesday night. 

Back-to-back deadly shootings over the holiday weekend prompted the gathering, where people also remembered the three lives lost by leaving flowers, stuffed animals and lifting up prayers.

"God, take care of the families," Bruce Jones with Love Ministry said while leading a prayer. 

More than 30 people gathered behind the Royal Farms on East Virginia Beach Boulevard, following back-to-back shootings over the holiday weekend that claimed the lives of Norfolk State University junior Jahari George, 24-year-old mother of two Precious McClendon and Norview eighth grader Amir Burnett.

"I couldn't breathe," said LaTonya Snow with Auntie Advocate, when asked for her reaction to the recent acts of violence. 

Snow and other community advocates are renewing their calls for change and amplifying their message.

"Hear the families and the young people. We need to hear their voices," said Shana Turner with  Hampton Roads Mothers, Men and Movement Against Senseless Killings. 

Turner lost a son to gun violence several years ago. "It’s hurtful to a lot of families, a lot of sleepless nights," she said. 

Moreover, Jones called for a ramp up in surveillance cameras at known hotspots and police patrols, "to walk the beat.”

A couple members of Norfolk Police Department also attended the event.

At the rally, speakers touched on the importance of learning conflict resolution, addressing generational traumas and serving as role models to young people.

"They may be lost, they may not have a mentor. We have to come back to the villages," Turner added. 

The father of Donovon Lynch, Wayne Lynch, was also in attendance. "These are our babies man, we've got to take care of these kids," he said to the crowd.

"What I'm finding out now that I'm in office, most of what we're going to have to do is going to have to come from us on this side, the side of the people," said Norfolk city councilman John "JP" Paige.

He said initiatives like deploying violence interrupters and teaming up with grassroots organizations are just part of the solution. Paige also believes in hearing what the perpetrators of crime have to say.

"I'm going to where the violent folks are and having conversation," said Paige.

“We can change our minds, but we have go to change our hearts," Snow added. "If we can understand what’s in our hearts, then we can serve other people. That’s where we have to begin first." 

Norfolk police have not yet released any suspect information regarding the death of NSU student Jahari George.

Arrests have been in made in connection to the two other shootings that took place over Labor Day weekend in Norfolk.

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