Hundreds of people gathered in the streets on Sunday morning near the Jefferson Avenue Tops Markets which were the target of Saturday’s mass shooting for a prayer vigil that evolved into a Black Lives Matter protest and rally against the armed violence.
Pastors from many area churches were joined by Muslim and Jewish leaders, community activists, neighborhood residents and other supporters to call for unity, condemn racism and pray for healing.
In a fiery short speech at True Bethel Baptist Church the day after a gunman killed 10 people and…
“Yes, we are angry,” said Reverend Charles Walker, who helped organize the vigil. “I have people who have just come back from prison who call me at 3:30 a.m. and say: ‘We want to intervene.’ And I say, ‘For what? It’s not up to us to fight. Our job is to continue to love and support each other. ‘ ”
Reverend Denise Walden-Glenn said she spent until 11 p.m. Saturday with families who gathered at the Stanley Makowski Childcare Center to find out if anyone they knew was among the 10 people killed and three injured in the racially motivated shooting.
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“Many, many people in this area knew and were close to people who work and shop at this store,” she said. “Some of the victims did not have ID cards on them, and as we received reports, there were no words to express the pain. For every family who received a call that a be dear was fine, there was someone who received a call that their loved one was gone.
Walden-Glenn and other pastors stood in the center of a growing crowd and alternated between leading them in prayer and leading chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “This is what community looks like.”
Many described the East Side as a food desert and Tops Market as “our store” where they knew everyone, helped each other shop and gave each other directions.
“I can’t sleep. I can eat a little, but I keep hearing gunshots and seeing bodies,” said the employee, who wished to give only her first name, Latisha.
Tony Sanders, 68, came to the vigil to honor his friend Heyward Patterson, whose first name is listed as Haywood in a church directory. People knew him as a “jitney” who drove people to and from Tops and helped them with their errands. Sanders said Patterson was loading an elderly woman’s groceries into his car when she became the first person shot, and he the second.
“He was a deacon and my best friend,” Sanders said.
Tonie Sanders said she came to the wake because she considered the store “my Tops.” She also knew Patterson, who she said would see her in the store and ask if she could take someone home.
“He was a wonderful man, and I’m so sad that it happened,” she said.
She said the Cold Springs neighborhood is a close-knit community where people help each other.
“I’m scared because in the past we had racial issues, but today this community is a melting pot with people from Bangladesh to Pakistan to India to Sierra Leone,” he said. she declared. “We all get along and try to have a good life, but he came and disrupted it, and now it will put everyone on their toes. Now you won’t know who you can trust, and I don’t want that to happen.
Walker, the Reverend James Giles and the Reverend Mark Blue, president of the NAACP, led the rally singing “Amazing Grace”. Walden-Glenn announced that Red Cross pastors and counselors will occupy the Johnnie Wiley Pavilion today until 9 p.m. and Monday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to provide comfort and guidance to friends and families affected by the trauma.
Afterwards, many in the crowd help out with an impromptu march around the block, while others who brought flowers assembled several shrines near the store.