By Olin Ericksen
March 1 -- One year after 15-year-old Eddie Lopez was
gunned down on a Pico Boulevard street corner, students from his
former high school, residents, family members and others touched
by violence spoke out and took to the streets for peace.
Chanting as they marched down Lincoln Boulevard with a police escort
in tow, several hundred demonstrators slowed traffic as they headed
to a vigil at St. Monica's Church for a memorial for Lopez and other
victims of gang violence.
The march followed an emotional press conference attended by Samohi
students, School District officials and council member Kevin McKeown,
where several mothers broke down as they spoke about the loss of
"Eddie Lopez was killed on this day one year ago," School
Board VicePpresident Oscar de la Torre told the crowd gathered outside
the gates of the high school. "I think back to who I used to
be and thought that could have been me.
"This is an issue that has plagued our community for far too
long," said de la Torre.
|Oscar de la Torre addresses
crowd. (phots by Olin Ericksen)
While the gang violence has been rooted in the Pico Neighborhood,
home to many of the city’s poor and minority residents, it
reaches far beyond the area’s borders.
Gang violence impacts families in countless communities across
Los Angeles County, California and the nation, and regional solutions
are needed to tackle the persistent problem, those who took part
in the demonstration said.
"I don't want to go to any more funerals," said Council
member Kevin McKeown.
McKeown pledged to use his position to continue pushing for reforms
begun two years ago that call for working with youths in the schools
and providing jobs and other opportunities.
|Armita Lopez, Ediie Lopez's mother, talks
Although law enforcement is needed to fight violence, City officials
must also focus on strategies to reach kids before they get involved
Pushing new legislation also can help curb the problem, according
to anti-handgun advocates at the march.
A new bill introduced in the State legislature -- the crime gun
identification act -- would match bullet shell casing to the guns
used in crimes, they said.
The march came three weeks after Santa Monica Police arrested eight
West Los Angeles gang members allegedly responsible for many of
Santa Monica's violent crimes over the past last year -- including
the murders of Lopez and Miguel Martin, who was killed in December.