Wednesday, June 2, 2010
West End residents march in the streets in an effort to curb the violence
Several hundred residents from the West End marched peacefully through their neighbourhood Tuesday night in a bid to reclaim it from the violence and gangs that appear to be tightening their grip on the community.
The march was the neighbourhood's response to the shootings last week that claimed the life of 16-year-old Kyle Earl and injured his 13-year-old friend, Byron Cook -- in what police said was a targeted gang attack -- and wounded two sisters, aged eight and 10 years, 24 hours later when bullets flew through their front window.
Police say the girls' house was wrongly targeted.
"People have to come forward and speak out and that's what we're doing here," Maria Ludington, 46, who moved here as a young teen from the Philippines, said. "For too long people have been silent, been scared. Now, we've got to speak up."
The community march drew people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds; Asians, aboriginals, Filipinos and blacks from Africa and the Caribbean; short and tall, blind and newborns. Children wore colourful handmade hats. Children and adults carried homemade signs that visibly stated what the march meant to them all: 'I want to be safe', 'stop the violence', 'no more guns', 'I want respect'.
"I'm here because I'm hoping somehow this can help the violence stop," said Nelson Landon, 14, a friend of Cook's. "The violence has to stop."
A handful of politicians and known community activists joined the residents, including Premier Greg Selinger, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, MLA Rob Altemeyer, city councillor Harvey Smith, Nick Ternette and former MLA Marianne Cerilli.
But the evening belonged to the residents. It's a place they love, where they want to raise their children, but they are concerned about the hold violence and gangs have taken in the community.
Carol Spicer, 59, said she recently returned to the neighbourhood after living almost three years in Chase, B.C.
"Something has happened to this city while I was away... it's gotten worse," Spicer, who lives on Sherbrook Street, said. "Look at the people, even the white people... they're bedraggled. Something has happened to Winnipeg."
Mathieu and Alana Manaigre are raising two young children in the neighbourhood they say is the nicest in the city.
"People ask us all the time, every day, why we live here," Mathieu Manaigre, an IT consultant, said.
"I've lived everywhere in this city, in Linden Woods and Island Lakes, but the neighbours here are the best, we have a great sense of community," said Alana Manaigre.
She was at her Toronto Street home when the shootings occurred and saw the heavily armed police tactical units swarm the streets.
"It's scary. You don't want that kind of stuff happening where you live and where you want to raise your kids," she said.
"We're concerned about the violence but at the same time we don't find it unsafe," Mathieu Manaigre said.
Ludington said all her neighbours work, some even two jobs, including herself. She said the powers that be in this city have turned their back on the West End.
"Look at the sidewalks, the roads; they're all crumbling, cracked and crooked. We pay taxes, too, but our kids don't have any place to play."
Nelson Landon came to the march, bringing with him a group of younger kids from Rossbrook House, where he works as a supervisor. Nelson said his older brother and sister have said the area has changed for the worse and he's worried -- about himself, his friends and the young kids who clearly look up to the big, hulking 14-year-old.
"There's more drugs. Everyone thinks you're in a gang just because you're big. Before, people would just beat each other up but now, people are getting seriously injured and killed," Nelson said. "This has got to stop."
Anne and Vic Pereira came out Tuesday night because their church, the First Lutheran Church, is smack in the middle of this neighbourhood. Anne's family goes back four generations to this community -- her great, great grandfather was the church's first pastor.
"We feel that we're part of this neighbourhood and we have a responsibility to help people make a change in their lives," Anne Pereira said. "There is so much strength here. This is an opportunity for the people of this neighbourhood."