Why a casket-bearing crowd blocked busy Newark streets for hours Wednesday

NEWARK -- A gray casket lay open in the middle of the normally bustling intersection of Broad and Market streets.

There were no passing cars or sounds of honking. Instead, activists and residents filled the empty streets to demand an end to the violence plaguing the state's largest city. Too many lives have been lost, they said, as a circle formed around the casket.

"I'm tired as hell of the violence," said Bashir Akinyele, a history teacher at Weequahic High School and co-founder of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition which organized the rally. "All forms of violence. It needs to stop. It must end."

For a few hours on Wednesday, the anti-violence coalition shut down parts of Broad and Market streets to bring attention -- and find solutions -- to the gun violence and domestic violence gripping the streets. 

"This is my hometown, I have family members that have been victims of the streets," said Yaanu Amani Bey Shakur, 46, a member of the New Black Panther Party in Newark. Shakur said he was robbed and shot when he was 17 years old.

"We're trying to send a message to the youth to stop the senseless killings," he said. "Kids feel no one cares about them, they turn to the streets because the streets is like their parents."

This year 33 people have been killed in Newark, according to police records. There were at least 50 slayings during the same period last year.

Deshawn H. Beeks, 22, was the latest fatality. He died early Tuesday after he was shot in city's North Ward, officials said.

A 6-year-old boy was also shot earlier this month near Central Avenue and Third Street. He survived. 

"That baby took a bullet in the stomach because you made that choice to pull that trigger," Samad Danazy, a member of the anti-violence coalition told the crowd. "Accept full responsibility. Stop running. Stop hiding and turn yourself in."

Danazy urged the community to be "outraged" and "fed up." "We're doing it to ourselves," he said.

People began gathering at the intersection around 6 p.m. chanting: "Stop the violence! Stop the killings!"

A group of young men led by Earl "Street Doctor" Best, a local organizer, joined the crowd after a two-mile run chanting "Believe in yourself." Best said the young men are part of program for at-risk youth run by the groups Hope, Love and Kindness and Believe in Yourself that provides job training, recreation and education for the city's youth. 

"If you believe in yourself you can be successful," said Elhajj Sall, 18. "If it weren't for all of the violence, Newark would be one of the best cities."

 

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