Jeanne Kuang Via Delaware News Journal
About 100 local residents marched through Wilmington's West Center City neighborhood on Monday, capping off a day of volunteer work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"We want peace, in these streets," they chanted.
Activists said they hoped, at a time of transition in local, state and national government, to make gun violence reduction a priority issue at the beginning of 2021.
It was the ninth year in a row community organizations held the MLK Day Peace March, but activists said Monday's march was significant. It came on the heels of a difficult 2020 that saw a spike in gun violence amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as nationwide protests against police brutality and disparate opportunities afforded to Black Americans, who in Wilmington are disproportionately affected by gun violence.
"The main issue is always gun violence and youth activities and the lack thereof," said CJ Bland of Westside Grows Together, one of the march's organizing groups.
"With this new administration, both with the City Council and the new presidency, we hope they invest in the youth and future."
Last year, 169 people were shot, 29 fatally, in Wilmington. It was the second most violent year for the city in the past decade.
Some community advocates have blamed economic fallout from the pandemic and a decline in in-person services for a rise in crime and violence, while city and state officials have said it is being driven by the release of those charged with crimes to avoid jailing people during the pandemic.
In attendance were some City Council members. The last term of the council was marked by intense in-fighting and division, which former Council President Hanifa Shabazz blamed for preventing council members from addressing gun violence head-on.
This year's term started off on a similar tone, but Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon said violence reduction is "one issue we can all come around to supporting."
"I think this is a priority issue for all council members," she said. "I think at this point all of us have seen the heightened crime and violence in the city."