Residents in Halifax-area community march for peace after violent incidents

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Many residents of neighbourhoods on the eastern outskirts of Halifax are ready to give peace a chance.
More than 100 people from the Prestons took part in an anti-violence march Sunday to protest a string of shootings and homicides and spread the message that enough is enough.
Rev. Wallace Smith Sr. said the community was marching and praying to "show the perpetrators that we have gotten tired of the violence."
He says the area wants "peace for our children and...a community where they can enjoy life like anybody else, get a good education and grow up to be leaders in our world."
Smith, who grew up in North Preston and is pastor at St. Thomas Baptist Church, said citizens want to reach the individuals involved in the violent acts.
"The hard work next is to talk to the young people and see how we can resolve things and move on," he said.
"We've spoken to some of them and it's been positive so far. They know what's going on today."
The march, which went from the North Preston Community Centre to the firehall and back again, was attended by young and old, many carrying colourful banners with anti-violence slogans.
Several members of Halifax police and the RCMP also took part in the walk, along with Mayor Peter Kelly and councillors David Hendsbee, who represents the Preston communities, Jennifer Watts of Halifax and Lorelei Nicoll of Cole Harbour.
The march follows community meetings that have been held in response to three October shooting incidents. One young man was hurt and one bullet went through a family's living room and wall, terrifying those inside.
Over the last three years, four young men have also died in North Preston and East Preston.
Martaze Provo, 25, and Brandon Beals, 21, were killed outside an East Preston after-hours drinking spot on Dec. 10, 2006. This year, Andre (Onnie) Slawter, 20, was killed in broad daylight on Jan. 21 while sitting in a car parked near his home on Brian Street in East Preston. And Jerell Wright-Beals, 19, died in hospital after a drive-by shooting on Clarence Street in North Preston on May 13.
Erna Thomas-Grant, a North Preston resident, said she prays "every night and every day" that her children and grandchildren will remain safe.
"I want them to live and be free and be happy," she said after taking part in the march.
Celina Butt lives in Cole Harbour but attended the walk in support of her friend, Thomas-Grant.
"Even one person can make a difference," she said. "It's a good cause, so I had to be here to support it."
Both said they were pleased with the turnout, but Thomas-Grant thought a few more residents should have taken part in the inaugural event.
"There could have been a little more, but you've got to start somewhere," she said.
At the firehall, Smith's son, Wallace, led the group in a rousing rendition of the hymn Time to Make a Change, followed by brief speeches, prayers and scripture readings.
Kelly urged the community to come together against violence.
"It's important that we speak with one voice," he said. "Violence has no place in our lives, violence has no place in our homes, violence has no place in our communities."

Organizations: St. Thomas Baptist Church, North Preston Community Centre, RCMP

Geographic location: Halifax, North Preston, Prestons East Preston Brian Street Clarence Street

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