JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community members on Saturday called for a truce to end acts of violence across the city.
After six people were shot, one fatally, in five separate shootings in a 24-hour span in Jacksonville, community advocacy group the Northside Coalition called for a weeklong "cease-fire."
“We (are) calling for an immediate suspension of violence to be observed by all residents throughout the entire city of Jacksonville,” Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition, said in a news release. "We’re asking that anyone involved in potential altercations put an immediate stop action on any plans for conflict or hostilities during this period. No more retaliations. Instead, talk it out, mediate, negotiate and start to resolve conflicts on peaceful grounds."
The Northside Coalition called for a three-day cease-fire in the release, but Frazier later told News4Jax the group is calling for a weeklong cease-fire, from noon Saturday to March 1, in response to a week of consistent gun violence in Jacksonville. The group encourages community members to think of different ways to resolve conflict.
"Our theme is stop the violence and increase the peace," Frazier said.
The Northside Coalition's announcement came around the same time as community members called for an end to the violence and prayed for peace at a vigil Saturday morning at Confederate Park in downtown Jacksonville.
"It's too much going on and we really need a change in Jacksonville, Florida, because this is a great city," said resident Falonda Ruffin.
She said, as a mother of three, her biggest fear is gun violence.
"I have two boys, 16 and 13, and a daughter, 19. I am scared for them to go to the park just to play basketball. When they ask, I don’t want to say no, so I am going to say (I'm scared of) them getting hurt or killed," Ruffin said.
Leola Coleman and her brother, Ronald Bryce, organized Saturday's call to action.
"How ever many people come are how many people need to be here," Coleman said.
The vigil inspired community members, including the children at the event, to choose the right path.
"With all of this senseless killing going on in our community and with all of this negativity going on, our goal is to bring peace, love and happiness to our city once and for all because the crime is outrageous right now and we never know when our kids will be next," Bryce said.
The stretch of violence comes shortly after representatives from the Cure Violence program left the city following several days of evaluation. Mayor Lenny Curry has proposed legislation to move more than $750,000 of city money from a fund for Hanna Park to start the Cure Violence program in Jacksonville. Cure Violence, which began in Chicago, uses ex-cons as so-called "violence interrupters," working to identify those who are most likely to be shooters and shooting victims. The News4Jax I-TEAM even visited its team on the streets of Philadelphia to see how the program works.
Also this week, state Sen. Audrey Gibson and state Rep. Tracie Davis, both of whom represent Jacksonville, sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the city is in a "State of Urgency" emergency, and calling on him "to act immediately by activating the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida National Guard to assist local law enforcement" in response to the violence.
The sheriff said right now, he is not asking for help, and Curry called the request by the state lawmakers a political ploy. DeSantis has yet to respond to the joint letter.