In lieu of the recent violence in their community, Stop the Violence rally organizers Pamela Pitts and Sandra Hall aim to promote peace in their communities.
"We want to just discourage violent acts and promote more love," Pitts said. "That's our thing, to promote more love, understanding and forgiveness."
Pitts and Hall are members of Community Citizens for Change, the organization — which began at the Auburn AME Zion Church — that sponsored the Stop the Violence rally today at Sam Harris Park on Foster Street in western Auburn.
"The rally is to make sure that we are doing positive things in the community," Hall said. "If we save just one child, that will be a blessing. There's so much negative things going on. They feel like they have to pick up guns instead of trying to sell things without weapons. We're trying to make sure that our community is safe from drugs, violence and all kinds of things."
Members of the Auburn community gathered at Sam Harris Park for grilled hot dogs, drinks, a DJ and speakers. Donations taken at the rally will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn.
Dozens of prominent community members were in attendance at the rally, including AME Zion pastor Stephen Faulk, who also serves as the presiding elder of the Opelika district of the AME church.
"I'm here because I believe in nonviolence," Faulk said. "I want to see our community become a more peaceful place to live. I'm very concerned about all of the violence that's taking place in the community."
Just last weekend, three men were shot and killed at Mr. D's Lodge in Auburn. Both Pitts and Hall said the deaths shed a new light of relevance on today's rally.
"We had already planned this before last weekend's incident, which is even more relevant for today that we need to stop the violence," Pitts said.
According to Hall, organizers almost canceled today's rally so community members could attend the funeral of one of the men killed in last weekend's shooting.
"We know that the families are hurting, moaning," Hall said. "There was a funeral Thursday, there was one yesterday and there's one today. ... We know people want to go to the funeral. We wanted to cancel this event, but I talked to our president and I said I thought it was needed — very much needed."
Faulk said he wants the Auburn community to come together to prevent violence and make a change.
"I'm very concerned about all of the violence that's taking place in the community," Faulk said. "If it were a white policeman that had killed a black person, everybody would be up-in-arms. This is black-on-black crime that is just running rapid in the community. ... Whoever is engaging in the violence is wrong. We need to do whatever we can to deter this type of behavior, but also to be a voice against it. I'm here to join as a voice against the violence in the community."
Sheriff Jay Jones, Ward 1 Councilman Clemon Byrd and Brandon Hughes, Republican nominee for district attorney who faces no opposition in November, attended the rally today.
"Whether it's law enforcement or through the DA's office, we can only do so much," Hughes said. "At some point, folks in the community, folks in the neighborhood and folks on the street have to say, 'Enough is enough.' ... We're also there to say, 'What do you need from us?' Too many times, I think these communities have folks telling them what they need, telling them what's best, instead of listening to them."