ROCKFORD (WREX) — Rockford is coming off its deadliest year, one that saw more than 30 people killed in the city in 2020. But on Friday, faith leaders and local organizations came together with one message: stop gun violence.
A faith-based, grassroots group of about 30 local faith leaders, violence prevention advocates, and survivors of gun violence spoke out for more than 40 minutes, demanding additional resources to make their communities safer.
"You would never think that it would be you until it happens to you," Dianne Wynn, the mother of Printess Wynn, a survivor of last year's shooting at Don Carter Lanes, says. "That's a mother's worst nightmare, a phone call saying your son has been shot."
Printess Wynn and his mother are now members of the group LIVE FREE, a national violence prevention organization with goals of ending structural discrimination and mass incarceration, with a Rockford chapter.
Several faith leaders and advocates say the Don Carter Lanes shooting was their breaking point and called for action.
"We are tired of Black people dying in the streets without anything being done," says Wilmette Benford of LIVE FREE Rockford.
The group is asking for $3 million from the American Rescue Plan to create a new gun violence prevention office and system in Winnebago County. The county is slated to receive $54 million from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan.
The group says the $3 million it's asking for would go towards violence intervention, hospital-based intervention, and therapeutic programs for those traumatized by gun violence.
Local pastors say a goal of the programs is to educate children to pick up a book and not a gun.
"Our kids shouldn't be scared to go to the playground," Brian Harrington, a youth leader for LIVE FREE Rockford, says. "The long-term effect is for our children to have a normal childhood, and the ability to have everything everyone else's got, like they have across the river."
After the rally ended, the group headed out into the community to go door-to-door and talk about their mission.
The hope is these programs would be up and running by 2022 and then funded again each year. But the goal is to direct these funds to under-served communities and for them to create these programs.