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A Show of Force and a Call for Peace

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

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 their children.

"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 to reporters.

Although law enforcement is needed to fight violence, City officials must also focus on strategies to reach kids before they get involved in gangs.

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.






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