Waco rallies against violence

By Rolando Rodriguez Soto, Reporter

The North East Riverside Neighborhood Association is gathering its residents and leaders to take a stand against crime. The association is encouraging peace through the first End the Silence, Stop the Violence Rally at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at East Waco Park.

The rally encourages residents to end all forms of violence in Waco communities through teamwork and awareness of the physical, psychological, emotional and financial effects of violence.

“Every morning when I get up, I hear about violence. I said to myself, ‘Enough is enough,’” said NERNA president Jeanette Bell. “Violence happens to anybody and anywhere. It doesn’t discriminate.”

Waco is often faced with the stigma of increased crime rate, especially within the North East Riverside neighborhood.

According to the Waco Police Department public records, North East Riverside neighborhood consistently falls into the lower 50 percent of reported crimes compared to other Waco neighborhoods.

Waco and even specific neighborhoods have been labeled as dangerous. Since 2009, however, Waco’s major crime incidents have decreased by 41 percent.

The rally is intended to lower the crime and violence rate through its goals to raise awareness for increased community engagement, community services and anti-violence strategies.

“We want to promote a more positive image and dispel the labeling,” Bell said. “Until society addresses the insecurities, inequalities, injustices and imbalance in this world, we will always have violence.”

Bell defined violence as a communicable but treatable disease.

“We can end this epidemic by interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating high risk individuals and groups, and by challenging social norms to promote social justice and equality,” Bell said.

The event is open to all members of the Waco community.

“I think it’s nice that new ideas are introduced to our community in order to get a very important message across,” said Waco junior Damaris Rojo. “The benefit from such events is huge, and I think it’s great that someone is taking the time to organize such a thing.”

Stop the Violence Rally is free of charge for all Waco residents to attend. The event will include free food and entertainment. Bishop Royce Montgomery and the New Horizon Baptist Church Choir will perform at the event as well.

Commissioner Lester Gibson will be speaking to the community. Other testimonials include representatives from the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims, Family Abuse Center and the Waco Police Department.

“We are encouraging everyone to stand up with us on Saturday to end violence in our community,” Bell said. “Hopefully we can do this annually to promote a day of peace.”