Friends & Family Remember Alejandro Rojas Garcia
“Change Their Hearts”
Philadelphia – On a cold February evening along a forlorn stretch of the 4200 block of MacAlaster Street, you wouldn’t expect to find the smiling face of Alejandro Rojas Garcia.
But this desolate road was filled with some one-hundred-and-fifty family, friends and Temple University students, Saturday, gathering before a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and portrait of Alejandro, the father, son, brother and friend who many knew as “Alex” or “Luchi.”
For college friends, like Chris Matee, who was wounded the Jan.24th- Saturday night, Alejandro was gunned down, it was hard to comprehend that this “intelligent, humorous” and always “happy” person was gone.
“He was so happy, especially among his friends,” recalled his Sisters and Brothers – Aleida, Rebecca, Veronica, Enid and John Neumann. “He would give” help of any kind to anyone in need. He had lived by the lessons his father Wilfredo and mother Alieda had “taught us, to be kind to others.”
But for the father and mother of Alejandro, their overriding concern was to find “Justice.” And not simply justice for themselves and Alejandro, but, as Mr. Rojas explained, an end to the type of “senseless violence” that has beset this neighborhood and city for decades.
Among those assembled in solidarity with the Rojas-Garcia family were mayoral candidate Judge Nelson Diaz, Rev. Roger Zepernick of the Centro Pedro Claver; Rev. Luis Cortes, the founder of Esperanza and a national leader of the Hispanic clergy; Tom Cronin, former President of AFSCME District Council 47, the white collar employees’ union.
While Nelson Diaz was embraced by the Rojas-Garcia family for his presence, all voiced their commitment to finding justice for the 34-year old Temple Student who was murdered after a night out with friends. Mr. Cronin expressed a consensus view, saying it was incomprehensible this happening to a family that dedicated their lives to “social work and dealing with the ills of society.”
After recalling his decades of social work on behalf of prisoners, and the “pain” he often witnessed of families visiting those prisoners, Wilfredo Rojas said, “I never realized I would be at a vigil for my own son.”
Rojas then addressed his comments to Mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz, urging him to “make this part” of your agenda. “Don’t skirt the issue of violence in the streets of Philadelphia. We (need to) get together and develop a platform to let the (next) administration know that we are not playing any more. It’s over.”
“We’re not getting angry, we’re getting even.”
“If you can’t allay our concerns about the kids walking the streets of Philadelphia, in South Jersey or in other cities around (here), then we don’t need you, step aside,” asserted Rojas. “Let somebody do it who can actually feel our pain.”
“Aleida and I have pain today, and that pain is reflected in all of the faces around here,” added Mr. Rojas.
“We want to take these young kids that are involved in criminal activities and we want to change their hearts and change their behavior,” continued Mr. Rojas. “If we can change their behavior, we can move towards justice for all.”
Alejandro’s teenage son, Alejandro Elian Rojas and Daughter Briana Rojas, were surrounded by their Aunts as they spoke of the Father they had lost. Alex recalled their shared love of “fishing.” And Briana,with tears welling up, noted that her Father will never get to “see me go to a prom” or “walk me up the aisle.”
El Hispano reached out to all Mayoral candidates on the issue of gun violence raised by the Rojas-Garcia family. Besides Nelson Diaz, former Councilman James Kenney offered his position. Mr. Kenney said he intends to work with “other mayors and legislators to push back against the NRA to both repeal Act 192 and pass common sense gun regulations to get guns out of the hands of criminals.”
Pennsylvania’s Act 192, among other things, prevents municipalities from making their own laws regarding gun ownership, making unconstitutional laws passed by City Councils in Philadelphia, Lancaster or other cities requiring the reporting of stolen or lost guns.
Mr. Kenney added, that he would “continue programs focused (on) deterrence that have shown real progress in bringing down the number of shootings in our city.”