CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s been roughly two weeks since Cedar Rapids saw a weekend with five shots-fired reports, and Brandon Jackson, an organizer of this year’s annual Stop the Violence event, said it’s time to put the guns down.
“This isn’t just a neighborhood problem,” he said. “It’s a city problem. It’s a problem that affects everyone.”
Jackson, 33, is the founder of Dreem Sports, a local nonprofit youth sports organization that started in February. This is Jackson’s first year organizing the Stop the Violence event, and this year he said will be a little different.
The event is scheduled to begin at noon Saturday at Redmond Park, 1545 Third Ave. SE. Jackson said the event will start with sign-making followed by a march through the city at 1 p.m. Event organizers are asking that attendees wear red.
“After the march, we’ll all gather back at the park, and there will be food and activities and music and games for everyone to enjoy,” Jackson said.
The goal of the event, Jackson said, is to raise awareness about the violence plaguing the community, to promote community togetherness and to remember those lost to violence.
“We want everyone to come out,” he said. “We’d like to see community members and leaders, city officials, churches and other organizations come out and get involved in working to end the violence.”
Jackson said he would especially like to see organizations and agencies that are offering youth and teen summer programs come to event and let people know what they have to offer kinds in the neighborhood.
The event come roughly a week after a particularly disturbing weekend that brought five shooting incidents in the span of 55 hours.
Cedar Rapids Public Safety spokesperson Greg Buelow said four of the weekend incidents in the Wellington Heights neighborhood appeared to be related.
“In many cases, there are individuals that are engaging one another in ongoing disputes,” he told The Gazette last week. “These groups are hybrid gangs. They don’t contain the traditional structure of historic criminal street gangs. These are generally loosely affiliated and often change their allegiance to one another. They are often in disputes about relationship issues or other perceived grievances. Unfortunately, some have access to firearms and are using them to attempt to settle their disputes.”
A lifelong Cedar Rapids resident, Jackson said he grew up in the Wellington Heights neighborhood.
“When I was a kid, it felt safe,” he said. “We could run around and play outside or walk to the corner store to get ice cream and our families didn’t have to worry about us.”
Now, a father himself, Jackson said he wants better for his children.
“It’s the youth who are most affected by the violence,” he said. “They’re the ones getting shot and doing the shooting, and they’re getting younger and younger. We have to do better for them. We have to come together as a community and deal with this issue head on.”
“This event is about coming together as a community,” Jackson said. “We want to celebrate life, unity and community and we want to remember those we have lost.”
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