Peace march seeks to take back northside Indianapolis neighborhood

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (October 18, 2015) – The criminally armed young people of Indianapolis boast about living at the corner of East 40th Street and Boulevard Place.

Four people, including a ten-year-old boy, have been gunned down within blocks of that infamous intersection in the last eight weeks in an ongoing street battle that may be over drugs or missing money or simply a fight at the state fairgrounds.

A truce negotiated by residents between warring sides took hold after another killing last week. The ceasefire lasted long enough for 200 neighbors and supporters to join hands in Butler-Tarkington park and pray for peace Sunday.

“I’m going to attach myself to  some people who will stand on the corner, and I’m talking about third shift on the third watch, and say, ‘While everybody else is sleeping, you’re not going to kill anybody else in this neighborhood,’” said Senior Pastor Eli A. Johnson of The People’s Church.

“I have a son and two brothers up here that have walked that same walk,” said Michael Brown, a former Indianapolis Public School commissioner who traces his boyhood to the south Butler-Tarkington community. “You can’t tell me how to not thug if you’ve never been a thug. If you’ve never lived in the hood, you can’t tell me what it is like to live in the hood.”

It was that attitude that brought several men together last week to organize under the banner “WADE”, which stands for Working Against Devils Everyday, to negotiate a truce between two groups of combatants and sponsor the peace rally in the park.

A march from the park to 40th Street and Boulevard Avenue resulted in a promise from the leader of the Ten Point Coalition and a plea from the Chief of Police.

“Fathers we have to be more responsible and help raise our children,” said Rev. Charles Harrison, who was praised for the commitment of his group to walk troubled neighborhoods and counsel peace. “I don’t want my son killing anybody. So I gotta check him now, amen. I gotta check him now and I gotta let him know you are not gonna be allowed to be in any gang, you’re not gonna be allowed to be in any clique, you certainly ain’t gonna have no gun, and you got a curfew and you can’t be out when you want to be out and you can’t come in when you want to come in.”

Metro Police Chief Rick Hite told neighbors IMPD couldn’t solve their problems without community help.

Narcotics detectives raided a house in the 3900 block of North Graceland Avenue last February in an investigation that may have set off the shifting alliances that resulted in the killing of Deshaun Swanson, a young boy attending a wake for his late grandmother at the same home September 19th.

“But we can’t keep taking the same hill planting God’s flag and then lose it again,” said Hite, frustrated by the revolving door of investigations. “We got too many houses that we have raided time and time again, and you knew there was wrong, and no one said a word. You got to not let that happen.”

A half-block away the two men vying to take over responsibility for the safety and security of South Butler-Tarkington in two weeks shook hands in the middle of the street to lament such meetings at such tragic locales.

“This trend in violence is not limited to one neighborhood,” said Chuck Brewer, the republican running to become Indianapolis’ next mayor. “Drug trade can go anywhere in the city. And it has before. We have to be sensitive to the fact that we are in this together as a city.”

His democratic opponent echoed those warnings.

“We are in it all together. It doesn’t matter if the violence occurs south of 38th, north of 38th,” said Joe Hogsett as he walked to catch up with neighbors marching their own streets. “They’re standing up and taking a position that this type of activity is no longer tolerable, working together with law enforcement agencies. I believe that neighborhood revitalization and community groups can get it done.”

All sides will try to get it done Monday night at 6:30 as IMPD meets with the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association to brief the community on its latest public safety plan at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Center.

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