The killing of Michelle Miers in July prompted parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral and Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) to organize an event to call attention to the prevention of violence in a city that has already experienced 34 homicides this year.
“Our faith communities in San Bernardino are strong and that will help us,” said Mayor Carey Davis.
Also held in prayer was San Bernardino Police Officer Gabriel Garcia, who was critically wounded by gunfire after he attempted to question a group of men on Aug. 22.
The “Pathway to Hope” vigil and march to end violence began with prayer at St. Bernardine Parish and continued with a march to the city’s school district headquarters and ended with a march to the steps of City Hall.
At each stop in the march, the crowd heard a message from a clergy member, a research report, testimonies from youth, and comments from city, school and public safety officials.
“I felt like I needed to stand up and speak up,” said Alex Arellano, an Arroyo Valley High School student.
Arellano shared his story while the march stopped in front of the school district headquarters. He shared his experience of being held at gunpoint at age 15 and how it has affected him since.
“I’m not the only one that has been affected by violence,” Arellano said. “Two of my friends have also been victims of being held at gun point. This is an ongoing issue that needs to be put at an end. There are people that feel that they are alone in this. I’m here to let them I know how you feel and you aren’t alone.”
School District Superintendent Dale Marsden, Mayor Carey Davis, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, youth leaders and a number of faith leaders rallied the crowd with calls for a change in San Bernardino.
“Peace can only be achieved by transforming our community into a community of hope,” said Rev. David Starr, Vicar at St. John Episcopal Church in San Bernardino.
The event also served as an opportunity for ICUC to officially support the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which will appear as CA Proposition 47 on the November ballot. Proposition 47 aims to provide victims’assistance, mental health programs, public education, drug treatment and inmate rehabilitation.
About 100 participants gathered at the start of the march. By the time the group reached the steps of City Hall the crowd had grown to 200.
Sara Arroyos, a youth leader of ICUC who helped coordinate the vigil, believes faith communities play a part in bringing about change.
“Our faith helps because if we don’t have faith or hope, then nothing will happen,” Arroyos said. “As a community we can come together and have hope.”