In downtown Salisbury march, crowd calls for end to violence

Published 12:11 am Sunday, February 26, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Now is the time for the city’s residents to take action to stop senseless violence, said Salisbury resident Al Heggins on Saturday evening.

Heggins and dozens of others marched through the streets of downtown Salisbury while chanting and holding signs that said: “stop the violence,” “afraid to play outside,” “justice for A’yanna Allen” and “together we win.”

The march started at the City of Salisbury graffiti walls at the intersection of Horah and South Main streets. It snaked through parts of downtown and paused at the intersection of East Innes and South Lee streets, where marchers chanted at passersby. Then, the march returned to the graffiti walls, where some of the roughly 40 marchers spoke.

One of the speakers was Heggins, who owns the consulting firm Human Praxis Institute. She told the crowd of roughly 40 marchers that an end to Salisbury’s recent wave of violent crime “has got to come from the ground up.”

“It’s got to stop and it starts with us,” Heggins said.

Elected officials like to ask “where’s the plan,” she said.

“Well, now’s the time to take the plan to them,” she said.

Local minister Latasha Wilks, who organized Saturday’s march, invited members of the Salisbury City Council to participate in the event. None showed up on Saturday — roughly one week after the city’s most recent murder. The march also came more than two months after the murder of 7-year-old A’yanna Allen, who was killed after suffering 20 gunshot wounds while sleeping at her grandmother’s house.

Allen’s murder remains unsolved.

A Salisbury native, Wilks said Saturday’s march is the start of a coalition-building effort. A coalition between residents and city officials is especially important in the midst of Salisbury’s current gun violence epidemic, she said.

“I have never seen the streets like they are now, until now,” she said. “You would think that somewhere like downtown would have never been touched, but that’s not the case. … I know when they’re zooming in on downtown and the police department it’s time for us to step up.”

Wilks was referring to a shooting on Jan. 22. In that incident, three people were injured when an argument started in a hookah lounge and ended with shooting in a parking lot located less than a block from the Salisbury Police Department.

“Guns down, stop the violence” was one of the many chants shouted into the streets by Saturday’s marchers.

Guns are just one part of the solution to Salisbury’s recent crime problems, said march participants. One speaker said drugs and guns are easier to obtain that a college degree and a job. Economically depressed areas are a breeding ground for violences, and Salisbury’s elected leaders need to successfully recruit jobs that don’t require advanced college degrees, said another speaker.

Local Pastor Anthony Smith encouraged marchers to work together and collaborate. Saturday’s march was just the beginning, he said.

“We know this is not the end, not the goal. This is one tactic to achieve a larger strategy,” Smith said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.