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OTR Rally Looks For Ways To Stop Violence

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Bill Rinehart
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WVXU
People gathered Tuesday evening at the scene of a deadly mass shooting in Over-the-Rhine to discuss ways to stop violence.

A violent weekend in Cincinnati has inspired new calls for a ceasefire. Twenty people were shot, five of them killed in different neighborhoods between Friday and Sunday in what police say were unrelated incidents. People gathered at one of the scenes Tuesday evening to discuss ways to prevent more bloodshed.

Grant Recreation Area in Over-the-Rhine was the site of the largest violent event. Ten people were shot. Two of them died.

Organizer Brian Garry says for the last year Neighborhoods United has been working on a plan to stop the killing. That plan will be laid out Friday, but Garry says Tuesday night was a chance to let more people see it and give feedback. "It is a work in progress. It's not going to be a be-all and end-all. We're open to all solutions."

Torrance Jones is a recruit coordinator with the Greater Cincinnati Urban League's Community Outreach Advocates, the effort that was formerly the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence. "Our mission and our vision is to come out in any type of way to do violence interruption and violence prevention."

He says police cannot "arrest us out of this situation." Instead he says the solution has to come from the top and from grassroots efforts.

The president of the Baptist Minister's Conference of Cincinnati agrees. The Reverend Mark Bomar says "The government can get involved, but they don't. We got a lot of building up around the city, but we don't have building up of education."

Bomar says he talked with Baptist ministers earlier in the day about a gun buyback program. "The only thing that I'm coming up with is that the ones who we need to get the guns from aren't the ones who are going to be bringing them in."

Instead he says there needs to be more support for programs to reach young people before they turn to violence.

He says that includes teaching job skills, and for younger people, athletics. Bomar says the Baptist Minister's Conference's Second Chance program does that but needs a building. "It's going to take all of us to come together to really help create a village," he says, "Where we help one another to raise our children."

Shree Phillips of Finneytown and her daughter were in Grant Recreation Area for Tuesday's event. "I'm driven to cry out to say, 'enough is enough,' we've got to stop killing each other." Her nephew was wounded earlier this month in Louisville. "We've got to put God back into the schools, into the system. We took prayer out and things have gone haywire since, I believe."

MoPoetry Phillips says to stop violence, people need to start loving their neighbors as themselves. "How would you feel to wake up the next morning and your neighbor's son or you neighbor's daughter has been murdered?"

Shree Phillips says she doesn't agree with the slogan of "defund the police" heard at many demonstrations after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. "We cannot take the police out of this situation. There are some good cops. There are some that need to be retrained. There are some rules that need to be changed, laws that need to be changed."

MoPoetry Phillips is a pre-trial officer. She says simply defunding law enforcement without having a plan to replace it won't work. But she agrees arrests won't end violence. "The judicial system definitely needs to be fixed. There are systemic issues there that need to be addressed," she says. "Our mental health system is broken, especially here in Cincinnati."