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Community activists urging elected officials to take a grassroots approach to stop gun violence in Cleveland

Posted at 7:01 AM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 07:01:05-05

CLEVELAND — Police are still looking for the person responsible for a drive-by shooting on the west side of Cleveland Wednesday night. An 11-year-old girl was shot in the thigh while inside her home on W. 54th street. Thankfully, she is expected to be OK. But community activists are pleading for the violence to stop.

For years Khalid Samad, the cofounder of Peace in the Hood, has been practicing what he preaches and seeing an impact.

“There was a time when this neighborhood and this community were actually moving, in terms of development, institution building, stabilizing families, things of this nature,” he said.

Helping former gang members like Patrick Sloan, get back on the right track.

“Change your life around, you know?” said Sloan.

But he said, now, Cleveland is taking a turn for the worse, with violence on the rise and no end in sight.

“The guns are coming in. People are straw purchasing. They’re flooding Cuyahoga County and Cleveland, in particular, with guns,” said Samad.

Twon Billings, a former gang member turned community activist, echoed Samad’s sentiment.

“There’s a lot of people that are stuck, they’re depressed, they’re angry and they got weapons and, so now, when you’re arguing, the first thing they’re going for is guns,” said Billings.

In Cleveland, homicide by guns is up 40% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Since Oct. 27, there have been 150 homicides in the city, the highest it’s been in more than 30 years.

Billings said it’s time for elected officials to take a grassroots approach.

“Our elected officials have to partner with the streets, talk to the streets, find out what is going on, talk to people, have a sit down with them and have things make sense,” he said.

But Samad said it’s not just about elected officials, it’s about having role models in the neighborhoods, too.

“There’s no real strong leadership,” he said.

He said the no-snitch mentality and retaliation culture have to come to an end for any real change to come.

“There’s a difference between being a snitch and reporting a crime,” he said. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, after a while, everyone is toothless, blind, or dead.”

We reached out to Cleveland Police to comment on the rise in homicides but haven’t heard back.