ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – After a recent uptick in shootings that included the killing of a young mother, elected officials and community members in St. Petersburg are demanding an end to the gun violence on the south side of their city.
“Enough is enough,” demonstrators chanted during a march Saturday afternoon. Some carried signs that said, “Stop the Killing.”
“It’s gonna take a village, it’s gonna take a community,” said City Council Member Deborah Figgs-Sanders, who helped organize the march.
This past Tuesday police told 8 On Your Side three people under the age of 20 were wounded during a shooting in the neighborhood on 9th Avenue South. Police say an argument over drugs sparked the gunfire.
“We just need to show the community that we’re willing to come out in the very area where the violence is occurring and ask them to join us for a march for peace,” State Senator Darryl Rouson told 8 On Your Side.
The march on 16th Street South went by the salon where police say nearly two weeks ago a stray bullet struck and killed an innocent bystander, 23-year-old Arnieceia Milton.
“When we lost a young mother that left a 3-month-old and an 8-year-old son that will never be able to see and hug his mother, we need to start having the conversation that people are uncomfortable having,” Figgs-Sanders said.
The city council member said she hopes organizing the march will jumpstart that community conversation on stopping gun violence. She told 8 On Your Side part of the solution involved creating improved economic opportunities.
“We want to offer programs to these businesses. Banking, accounting, insurance, legal services to help them grow and flourish,” Figgs-Sanders said.
Rouson added there cannot be large late-night gatherings like the one that led up to Milton’s death on Nov. 15.
“Fights break out, then guns break out,” he said, “we need to tell people to stay home to be safe in this pandemic already, there’s high anxiety.”
The marchers that chanted and prayed the violence ends Saturday were all wearing masks.
So far in 2020, there have been 14 homicides in the city, according to St. Petersburg Police. Nine of those victims were shot. For comparison, there were 13 gun homicides in 2019.