Residents, clergy, neighborhood groups and activists gathered Tuesday evening in front of City Hall to call for justice as they stood in solidarity with and prayed over the family of Eric Gregory Brown III, the 12-year-old boy who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Long Beach last week.
“We need to ensure that we have justice and peace in the community. … We need to ensure that we have robust programming, that we have places and spaces for our children to go to—parks, community centers and faith based churches,” said Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro CHA, in her opening remarks.
The rally and protest were organized by One Long Beach Alliance, an organization demanding the city expand local investment in community violence intervention and prevention programs. The group is also seeking ways to end the cycles of violence and trauma that continue to seize the city’s underserved areas in North, Central and West Long Beach.
The overarching theme of the afternoon was love. Reverends said prayers of peace and healing over those in attendance and encouraged the audience to love one another and rejoice. They explained that this was the way to prevent violence in their local communities, by looking out for one another.
In the crowd, dozens held up signs that read, “Peace,” and “Enough is enough.” Others just had the boy’s name scrawled in bold, black ink.
Levinia Brown described her cousin as always having a smile on his face. An innocent kid who danced with joy, Eric was fearless, had faith and was full of love, she said.
“He’s like a light that was taken away.”
Brown was walking with a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl less than one week ago on Tuesday, May 9, when an unknown number of suspects in a car opened fire on them around 11:30 p.m. in the 2200 block of Lewis Avenue, according to police.
The gunfire fatally wounded Eric and injured one of the girls. The violence also unleashed a wave of grief across Long Beach. City officials and family members alike attended the vigil to pray and mourn one day after the shooting.
Police are still investigating a motive in the case, and they have not released any suspect information.
The boy’s uncle, Lovell Brown, called for a reward to be issued by the city to find the suspects and bring justice to his nephew.
Sheba Gillis, a community activist and member of The Six, a neighborhood organization representing Long Beach’s 6th City Council District, demanded more resources from the city to prevent violence in Black and brown communities, especially for young people.
Last week, Gillis and others organized a solidarity event Wednesday afternoon to safely help students walk from Signal Hill Elementary School and Nelson Academy to their homes.
Aside from investing in the city’s Safe Passage Program, which the city is seeking to expand to increase the safety of youth walking to and from school in North, West and Central Long Beach, Gillis said investing in programming for youth from elementary to high school.
“There’s an oversaturation of programming for elementary school aged children, but when it comes to middle school and it comes to high school, and when there’s a lack of programming … sometimes you find yourself making decisions that you shouldn’t make,” she said. “We need to oversaturate these areas with programming and resources so that we are helping parents and we are empowering them to help their children.”