Peace Walk calls on all to take a stand against violence

This Friday, Aug.14, the seven cities of Hampton Roads have the chance to stand unified against violence.

The 2015 “Stop the Violence” Peace Walk kicks off at 6 p.m. at Splash Park in Portsmouth in effort to unify the region against police brutality, as well as community violence.

Coordinators Lakeesha Atkinson, who also began the non-profit community outreach organization Believe, Pray, Overcome, Monica Atkins and Rick Hoggard, reignited the march this year in reaction to the seemingly endless plethora of unarmed citizens brutalized by police in recent months.

In its first year, the Peace Walk was a vigil.

“Monica’s son got shot last year,” said Amira Bethea, who assisted Atkinson, Atkins and Hoggard in organizing the march. “It was a dedicated to him.”

Antonio Atkins, known to his friends as “Smugga,” was murdered in the early morning hours of a December Friday night in 2014. To date, his case remains unsolved.

This year, the focus of the march is not death, but life. Bethea said they want people to begin to look at all violence in the same light.

“Someone who lost their life to another colleague, someone who lost their life to the police, they’re both the same,” she said, “because violence is violence.”

The walk should not be mistaken for a solution to the problem insisted Bethea, but as a first step.

“The main reason for it is to unify people, to get everyone to a central location, on the same issue,” she said. “Once you get past that first step, you can say, ‘what’s the next course of action,’ whether its going to a city council meeting, or something else that will bring change.”

“The unity is what we need first. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.”

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