St. Pete community leaders march city streets to advocate for end to violence

Community leaders and residents marched through the streets of St. Petersburg Tuesday demanding an end to violence.

The walk near Wildwood Park, close to a triple shooting earlier this year, was organized by several local groups like The Hidden Voices Project, Moms Demand Action and St. Pete City Council Vice-Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders. Organizers said the walk was preventative, however, not necessarily a response to violence.

They said they want to let the community know that there are alternatives to violence, and there are resources that can help them if they’re the victim or the perpetrator of the violence.

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"Obviously the support is there when the tragedy happens, but to know that you have resources to overcome those issues and those barriers beforehand, obviously is the main goal," Dashon Mims, a case manager for The Hidden Voices Project, said. "We don’t want anyone to lose their life or to lose a loved one or to even risk your life to go to prison due to a mistake, due to emotions or whatever the case is."

According to St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway, who joined the walk, homicides dropped from 33 in 2021 to 16 last year. He said the triple shooting that happened at Wildwood Park in February has been the only shooting in the area so far this year, but Chief Holloway said that’s one too many. 

"We gotta keep reminding our citizens that there’s other ways to resolve problems instead of picking up a gun, picking up a knife, that people can communicate instead of using a weapon to try to solve their problems," the police chief said. 

"The numbers are going down, but until we have none, then that’s why we need to continue to share, continue to advocate, continue to not take our foot off the gas and say, ‘hey, you know what? There’s still an issue,'" Figgs-Sanders said. "There are still things that caused us to get to that place in the first place, so let’s find out what that is but continue to advocate for the safety and the value of human life."

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The Hidden Voices Project is a non-profit born out of the Enough is Enough campaign that Figgs-Sanders helped launch, Mims said. It’s a non-profit through the Pinellas County Ex-Offender Reentry Coalition that offers mental health support, financial services, employment help and educational support. 

Maress Scott joined the walk as well, leading the march. His son was shot and killed in 2019 at 20 years old. Scott said his non-profit that he started in his son’s memory works to provide young people alternatives to violence. 

"If they knew that there’s a different way to approach a subject that causes anger, they could use those resources, and they could overcome their issues," Scott said. "They could overcome their ideas of overcoming economic indifferences or differences through violence and if they find an opportunity and a way to self-actualize, we can save lives that way."

The St. Pete Police Department said one victim from the triple shooting in February is still in serious condition and the other two have recovered. 

Detectives are still looking for two cars connected to the shooting. Both, they said, are newer model Audis, or similar make sedans. One car is black and the other is white. 

If you have any information, you’re asked to call police.