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Tonight’s March for Safe Streets event in South Berkeley cancelled

A Family March for Safe Streets event in South Berkeley originally scheduled for tonight (Sept. 29) in response to several recent incidents of gun violence in the area, has been cancelled.

The announcement was made early this morning in an email from resident and event organizer Heather Marléne Zadig that gave the reasons behind the decision:

Dear fellow concerned community members,

I am deeply saddened to cancel this event based on new information and input from many community leaders and residents. First, it has been just now fully brought to my attention that there is a severe conflict with another, more crucial event in the neighborhood that is actively attempting to solve local community problems, and that this march was drawing needed attention away from that event, which has been planned for quite awhile. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/power-of-faith-2016-together-we-serve-tickets-26692456857

Second, I have received several messages indicating community outrage at the nature and tone of this event, specifically that the event did not overtly focus on the murder victim and other victims of violence, and that it had a focus on public safety, which was construed as being self-serving. This was completely the opposite of my intent. The updated route was chosen to weave through specific sites of recent violence and end at the site of the recent murder. My reasons for not emphasizing the victims in announcements about the event was not at all for a lack of concern, but rather only because of the intended family-and-small-children emphasis on community engagement against the violence. To be clear, I am outraged and sickened as a mother that Ignacio Francis Jr.’s mother had to bury her child, and that the other recent victims—young teenagers—were also in fact children. This is one of many reasons why I wanted to get children involved.

It has become clear from these many messages that to continue with this march would not only upset some members of the community but also cause divisions, which is completely anathema to the goals of the march. In fact, it renders the march entirely pointless. I am devastated that people have felt slighted by what was intended as a positive way to engage residents such as young families and children who may otherwise feel powerless to constructively contribute.

I appreciate the outpouring of support from others, the vast amounts of time people have spent trying to help make this happen, and I hope to achieve the goals of this march in other ways.

The Berkeley Police Department, which had planned to participate in the march, issued the following announcement:

Today’s scheduled Safer Streets March has been cancelled by its organizer, who is guiding concerned community members to consider attending another community event, entitled “Power of Faith 2016 – Together We Serve”, which will be held at the Ed Roberts Campus from 4 PM -7 PM. The march had been scheduled to begin tonight at 5:00pm from the parking lot of the Sweet Adeline Bakeshop.

The Berkeley Police Department stands in support of all efforts to build a safe and caring community. For our part,  extra patrols in the areas affected by violence will remain in place, as we work to ensure that residents are safe in their homes and on the street, and that our Department is committed to strong and safe neighborhoods. Our vigorous investigation into the two homicides and several shootings continues.

Our efforts to engage and inform our community will continue.