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Wave Of Violence Leads To Charleston Rally

Reported: Apr. 30, 2014 9:38 PM EDT
Updated: May. 1, 2014 2:57 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Taisha Walker) -- From the West Side to the East End, hundreds came together, marching in unity and meeting in the middle.

It was a strong showing of solidarity and a common hope that the violence in their communities comes to a stop.

"I think this is a start, people pulling together, because kids are being killed - people's children,

Word of the Put Your Guns Down, Hands Up to Pray Rally' spread after Deanna McKinney lost her son last Wednesday to gun violence outside of her home.

From young to old, people came together to show their support, and show criminals they won't remain silent as they try to destroy good neighborhoods.

"It sends a clear message,” Pam Whitesome of Rand said. “What it sends is that we, as a community , are going to stand together, join together as one, to show them that. “Look, we don't want you in our neighborhood. What's been going on is not going to be tolerated anymore.”

Praise , dance, and singing - all ways community members are spiritually and symbolically taking back their city.

“It's a myriad of problems that didn't happen overnight, that are not going to be eradicated overnight,” the Rev. Wayne Crozier of
Abundant Life Ministries said. “But what we're doing tonight is sending a message that we have to start somewhere.”

And when the march is over and the people have returned to their homes, organizers hope the message and the unity will resound when it comes to ending the violence.

"In the days and weeks to come, we want to come back and say, ‘This is our follow-up, this is what we're gonna do,’ because, again, it's not going to go away overnight,” Crozier said. “We are strategizing , we are praying and we do have a plan."

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Taisha Walker) -- While April has been a violent month in Charleston, the same can be said for the months of January and March, bringing the total number of shootings this year to nine.

Recently there have been three shootings in Charleston in a matter of seven days, and several lives have been forever changed.

Craig Tolley was caught in the middle of crossfire last Wednesday morning , when two rival groups began shooting at each other on Glenwood Avenue.

"The violence has to stop,” Tolley said. “I have to get my mom out of this neighborhood. It's always one shooting after another."

Twelve hours later, Charleston police were back on the West Side, investigating the murder of Tymel McKinney, 18, who was gunned down on his front porch.

"It's easy to pick up a gun and take a life because to me you have no conscience," Deanna McKinney said.

Bullets went flying again on Sunday, when a night club bouncer was shot twelve times by two men in the downtown area. The string of violence led to the Guns Down, Hands Up Unity March in Charleston on Wednesday.

"The West Side does get a bad rap,” The Rev. Wayne Crozier said. “The East End does get a bad rap, but it's crime going on everywhere, and it affects everybody. If not directly, indirectly, so we all have to take responsibility for what happens in the city we all love."

This week, there has been no gunfire, only fired up community members rallying to put an end to the violence in their neighborhoods.

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