Community activists, elected officials and residents sick and tired of youth violence came out in large numbers last night at a “stop the violence” unity rally. The crowd gathered at 5:30 p.m. on Avenue D and 6th Street and marched down to Columbia Street, where 16-year old Raphael Ward was shot and killed January 4.
Arlene Delgado, Raphael’s mom, thanked the community for an outpouring of support in the aftermath of her family’s tragedy, and called on parents throughout the Lower East Side to do whatever it takes to keep their kids safe. “They say it takes a village, right… So our village has to pull together. You have to be more involved,” she said. Delgado said she is starting a foundation in her son’s name.
It was a diverse crowd that gathered on the plaza area at Columbia and Rivington streeets. Longtime Lower East Side activists such as Chino Garcia and tenant association leaders were in attendance, alongside young people, including kids from the LES Girls Club. Many people carried signs with slogans such as “Stop the Violence in the Lower East Side” and “An attack on one is an attack on all.”
The event was organized by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who said the whole city must come together to stop the violence. City Council member Rosie Mendez, a resident of East 11th Street, said, “We are a community. Enough is enough. We cannot spend any more time shedding any more tears, saying goodbye to a young man in our community.” Other speakers noted that the shooting, which police say was tied to a long running dispute among rival LES groups, shows that it’s far too easy for kids to get their hands on guns.
Stringer said the rally was a ‘call to action.” A few people in the crowd shouted out, saying there’s a need for more youth programs on the Lower East Side. One woman said the time had come to “hold our politicians accountable.” Others argued that the main burden falls with parents, who must be more involved in their kids’ lives.
It remains to be seen whether elected officials or the neighborhood’s many non-profit organizations will propose concrete initiatives to address the youth violence problem in the aftermath of the latest tragedy.
16-year old Timothy Montalvo has been charged with second degree murder in connection with Raphael Ward’s killing. Police are still looking for at least three other suspects, including 20-year old Walter Rodriguez, the alleged shooter.