AKRON, Ohio — Hundreds of people took part in the Akron March for Our Lives on Saturday afternoon.
The march, which began at 1 p.m. at the Highland Square Branch of the Akron Public Library, featured several speakers, including local politicians, organizers of the event, and representatives from Moms Demand Action, a national organization that pushes for better gun laws.
Kody Cross, the found of the Akron March for Our Lives chapter, said gun violence is plaguing the community and looking for solutions is crucial.
"It's not an issue that is inevitable. It's not an issue that there is no solution. We're able to work through this together as a people," Cross said.
Cross knows firsthand the dangers of gunfire.
In 2019, at the age of 17, he was walking his mom and her co-worker home from their jobs at daycare in South Akron when suddenly two groups of teens started shooting at each other.
"They started shooting back at each other as me, my mom and her co-worker hadn't even had a chance to move fully out of the way. We were still in the street in the center of the two sides shooting back and forth," Cross said.
There have been 18 murders in Akron in 2021, 15 of them by gunfire.
Akron police officers continue to work on getting illegal guns off the streets. So far, 290 guns have been seized this year, compared to 181 at the same time last year,
Akron community grassroots organizer Sunny Matthews, who will also take part in the march, has lost friends to gun violence over the years.
She's tired of seeing crime scene tape and grieving families in the city, and discussed three main messages that will be delivered during the gathering.
"We remember the lives of those who have been lost . We react by demanding that those we have put in office start to commit to studies and figure out ways to solve problems and then we reform by also recognizing that it's not a one-shot solution," Matthews said.
Matthews said there should also be a renewed focus on how poverty and other economic issues could impact gun violence.
"Lack of opportunity leads to people going into survival mode and acting in ways that they would not otherwise," she said.
Matthews said the March will head towards downtown and make a stop at the LeBron James I PROMISE School to recognize something in the community that's making a difference for families.
"We want to make sure we uplift some of the work he's doing," Matthews said.