In a show of unity, a group of community members gathered Saturday for a peace march to speak out against violence in Roosevelt.
The march was organized by Helping End Violence Now, a coalition of churches, law enforcement, educators and community groups that advocate for reducing the harms of gang violence from the community.
Deacon Aaron Scott of Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt helped start the annual march nearly two decades ago in response to neighborhood violence.
“The police department has been working with us for the longest time, and it’s made a difference,” he said. “But we’re concerned because we know change has to be made.”
About 30 marchers stepped off at the corner of West Pennywood Avenue and Nassau Road and continued for about a mile, concluding at Centennial Park.
Scott and others said the park has attracted criminal activity in the past.
In late September, Nassau County police arrested seven people in connection with selling drugs during an investigation at the park.
Though crime data for Roosevelt was not immediately available, data from Nassau police shows there was a countywide total of 2,268 violent crimes reported in 2022, compared with 1,915 reported in 2021.
The park is just down the road from Centennial Avenue Elementary School, where Barbara Solomon is the principal. Solomon, who has worked as an educator in Roosevelt for more than three decades, said she has marched for the last several years to help spread awareness.
“We’ve lost a lot of young people to violence, so it’s very close to my heart that I participate in this,” she said.
Insp. Joseph Guerra, commanding officer of Nassau’s First Precinct, marched arm in arm with community members, clergy, students and school officials.
Guerra said maintaining relationships with the community is key to good policing.
“We’ll always be here to march alongside the members of the community,” he said.
Residents, shopkeepers and other spectators paused along Nassau Road as the marchers went by, carrying signs bearing messages of hope and chanting: “Stop the violence! Keep the peace!” Passing motorists honked horns and raised fists in the air out of drivers' side windows in solidarity.
Fifteen-year-old Jordyn Perry walked among the group.
“Youth voices are often silenced,” she said. “We do want change. It’s important for people to listen,” Perry, a student at Freeport High School, said.
Alphons Lemanya said he was moved by their message.
The Roosevelt resident was browsing at a hardware store's outdoor display when he stopped to watch the march.
“We need peace in the community. … Not only Roosevelt but all over the country,” he said, alluding to a recent mass shooting in Maine that claimed 18 lives on Oct. 25.
“There have to be stricter gun laws in this country,” Lemanya said. “Every life is precious.”