Violent Month of Murders Prompts Prayer March on City Hall

A group of Long Beach ministers, organized and headed by Gregory Sanders of the Rock Christian Fellowship, were joined by hundreds of Christian men Tuesday night in order to lead a prayer march around City Hall to address, amongst other issues, the spike in violence over the last month in Long Beach.

From April 8 to May 8, a string of eight shooting murders–many of the victims young men; some of the crimes gang-related–prompted a concerned Sanders to take action. There have been 18 murders so far this year; in all of 2012, there were 30.

“We believe that a lot of our problems [are due to the fact that] we have a fatherless generation,” Sanders told the Post. “Young men don’t see grown men doing the right thing all the time so we wanted to be a visual movement of men gathered, synchronized, in accord with doing the right thing at the right time.”

The recent violence also has the attention of current and former Long Beach residents, who have have expressed a clear concern about what is happening, specificaly in the central and northern parts of town. Former Central Long Beach resident Donte Jones learned that three people he knew personally were murdered in April.

Prayer 01 Street

“It’s just beginning to hit too close to home,” Jones lamented. “The violence has always been there, but this type of frequency seems out of control… What can we do as a community, who can we reach out to in order to put a stop to this?”

Sanders and his crew of Christians hope that their answer of providing City Hall a visual will help engage a dialogue that could address how to stop such an issue. Sanders went onto to explain that the issue of violence was not the only matter being addressed at the march, citing homelessness, sex trafficking and educational gaps as issues the men were set to pray on.

“All the decisions about our city are made right there,” Sanders said, pointing towards the towering City Hall. “So we’re not just praying for the men and women lost, but every citizen, every leader, every member of their families, everyone.”

Linking hands, the men then began circling the territory of the Civic Center, praying and singing aloud as they walked in solidarity.

Prayer 01 BridgeJones, while praising the march for its visual appeal and spirit, ultimately believes that something more tangible must be done in order to engage a dialogue.

“When I was growing up on 10th Street, there seemed to be a larger police presence,” Jones said. “There were community police officers that came around the neighborhoods and introduced themselves; they kept gang injunctions in place and kept an eye on gang members… And I am not blaming the LBPD but simply questioning where they stand on this.”

Sgt. Aaron Eaton of the LBPD told the Post that, while they are always looking to partner with the community to solve crime, “At this point we do not have any specific pattern to any of these crimes. Homicide detectives continue to work diligently in an attempt to identify the perpetrators and ask that if anyone in the community has information to please call (562) 570-7244.”

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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