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Activist group PCAV brings leaders together amid violence in River City

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PEORIA (WEEK) - Sunday morning 13 people were shot and over 100 shell casings recovered Downtown Peoria. The shooting happened around 4:45 AM after Police said they chases "roving pop-up parties" across the city all night. An argument ensued ending in the gunfire caught on camera by one of the estimated 200 party-goers.

Tuesday, Peoria Community Against Violence (PCAV) held their regularly scheduled meeting at the Tabernacle of Praise Church in Peoria. They invited many community leaders and other activists to lead discussion and answer questions about the violence in the city.

PCAV President Gloria Clark said they cannot do this alone, pleading with the community to step up. "You need to get up off your couch. You need to get off your TV. You need to get off your phone. You need to get up and walk around and see what's going on in your community," she said passionately.

Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion also spoke to the packed, while socially distanced, room. "In order to get the dangerous people off the street we need cooperation," he explained. Later he said family members and friends of those participating in these parties need to step in. "Whether they're the organizer or the person attending it they are part of the problem," he added.

Marion said there are simply too many guns on the streets right now. Adding that Peoria Police have seized 157 illegal guns already in 2020. That's well over half the amount they recovered last year. And he said many of the guns on the streets are stolen from Central Illinois gun shops over the past year or so.

But other community activists, like Agbarra Bryson with the New Millenium Institute, call it a way of life issue. He spoke to the crowd saying "Parties used to be fun. What's fun now seems to be fighting, shooting to see if you can survive." He explained that through his mentorship program with kids ages 8-17, their mindset needs to change. "You have to get these young folks young. You have to challenge the way they think," he explained.

Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos also chimed in and answered questions. She explained that her office only sees these issues first hand at the back end, after arrest and investigation. But she said many of the juveniles who are caught up in violent crimes have experienced abuse at home. "It's not the kids fault that their parents or whoever is taking care of them, are not taking care of them," she said.

Aaron Chess, a local activist and candidate for the District 1 Council seat, said he too sees these issues starting young. "I come across a lot of guys that unfortunately are involved in gangs. They don't have anyone to talk to. They have no one that will sit there and listen because they don't feel loved," explained Chess. When asked what can be done to combat the violence in younger generations, he said to recruit young leaders like himself. Only someone who has been "in the trenches can help the trenches," he explained while offering his help.

PCAV is hitting the ground running, with a neighborhood canvass Thursday July 23, at 6:00 PM. The walk will begin at Harrison Learning Center. Peoria Crime Stoppers will be canvassing the neighborhood at 5:30 before the PCAV walk also. To help join the cause or volunteer to walk you can find more info on the PCAV Facebook Page.

Kyle Beachy

Kyle Beachy is a Multimedia Journalist for 25 News and Heart of Illinois. Born and raised in Kokomo, Indiana, he attended Indiana Wesleyan University where he studied Education and played baseball. He comes to us from Columbus, Ohio where he received a Master’s Degree from The Ohio State University.

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