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 Stop Gun Violence

Jim Smith/El Hispano

Philadelphia – In the wake of the shooting in West Philadelphia of Police Officer Jesse Hartnett,33, a group of largely African-American and Latino activists marched along a darkened North Broad Street to City Hall, Tuesday night, calling for an end to gun violence.

    Organized by “Operation Save Our City” the demonstrators alternately chanted, “Stop the Violence,”  “All Lives Matter,” “We Want Peace” and cheered the name of “Jesse Hartnett.”  Many of those attending the rally, like the Perez family, carried photos and posters of family and friends who lost their lives to gun violence. But it was a large nondescript banner which pointedly proclaimed the intent of the gathering, to demonstrate support for the men and women of the PPD: “Stop Shooting Our Philly Cops.”

   “We’re pretty much tired of all the violence in this city,” said Rosalind Pichardo, an organizer of Operation Save Our City. Having lost a brother and boyfriend to gun violence, Ms. Pichardo repeated, “I’m sick and tired of it. I’m tired of attending  vigils, tired of viewings and watching mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters crying. I don’t want to see anymore Teddy Bears. ”

  But I’m so happy that Jesse Hartnett is alive. Or we’d be out here with candles,” added Ms. Pichardo. “We’re grateful for all of our police officers,” a comment that drew applause from the crowd assembled outside a city hall.

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   As snow began to swirl around the north side of the city hall, “Big” Willie Perez spoke of the frustration of seeing ‘so many” lives taken by gun violence: “People just do stuff just to do it, and don’t think of the consequences.”

  “I’ve got so many friends and family dead,” due to guns, said Mr. Perez. I’m glad we’re doing this, because this has to stop. And if we  stand together that will go far in ending,” the violence.

  A resident of the Fairhill section of the city who spent several years in prison for drug-related offenses, Jose – who declined to give his full name- said he “never” used a gun and found it difficult to comprehend resorting to gun violence.

   “It’s like these people set their mind on what they gonna do and they gonna do it,” said Jose. “It doesn’t matter who the mayor or president is, things expletive gonna happen.”

With two children in elementary school, Jose expressed concerns for them and recommends tougher laws for anyone caught carrying an illegal gun in the city: “I’d get them off the street. Everybody that sells them, we can’t accept that.”

  “All the gun play out here,” added Jose. “They think they’re being cowboys out here. I might have a record, but no violent crime.”

  Kathy Montalvo agreed on the need for stricter gun laws and to “respect” our local police officers: “No matter what, these (police officers) are risking their lives every day so that we’re safe.”

   More than a dozen friends and relatives of Omar Perez also attended the rally. Omar Perez,36, was gunned down outside his home at Waterloo Street and Cambridge, in a drive-by shooting on a mid-July evening of 2014. The perpetrator was never found.

 Veronica Luna, Yadzaira Perez and others carried signs calling for “Justice for Omar.”

  In the press conference following the shooting of Officer Hatnett, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, “This guy tried to execute the police officer. He added, “The bravery (Hartnett) demonstrated was absolutely remarkable.”

 Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement, “This alleged intentional act of violence against an officer seeking to help a fellow citizen is horrifying and has no place in Pennsylvania.”

 Sen Robert Casey (D-Pa.) issued remarks that mirrored comments of Mayor Jim Kenney, characterizing the shooting as “barbarism.” He added, “This individual and any who would  advocate similar acts are not representative of any religion. They are thugs and criminals.”

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