'We gotta put these guns down': Community rallies to 'Stop the Violence'

The man held the megaphone to his face and shouted "Stop that," and the crowd shouted back "violence."

The group of about 20 gathered at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Sherwood Apartments in Montgomery in an effort to discourage the violence that rally organizers say has proliferated there over the past few months.

Two fatal shootings have occurred at the complex within the past month, organizers of the Stop the Violence campaign said. It's important to spread the message against violence in the areas where those homicides happened, said Rochelle Tyus, who founded the campaign.

“We’re losing too many lives to senseless gun violence," Tyus said. She added later, “We gotta put these guns down."

Demonstrators carry signs during the 'Stop the Violence' rally in the Southlawn neighborhood in Montgomery on Wednesday.

Since May 21, 2020, the group has been gathering to raise awareness about the number of homicides in Montgomery.

After that first Stop the Violence walk in 2020, Tyus has organized at least 40 walks throughout the city. She tries to do two or three walks a month. Tyus has two planned in the coming weeks, including a walk Saturday in the Chisholm Elementary School neighborhood.

More: Stop the Violence Montgomery city leaders hosting Saturday rally to Stop the Violence

More than a dozen police officers, including Chief Darryl Albert, joined the walk Wednesday.

Albert said that being out in the community and talking to people is a crucial part of the job for police officers. Last year, officers attended at least 575 community events, he said.

“That’s why we’re here," Albert said. "That’s why we do it. We care about them, and we want them to know it."

On the walks, people can have open and honest dialogues with police officers, the chief said.

Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert participates in the 'Stop the Violence' rally at Sherwood Apartments in the Southlawn neighborhood on Wednesday.

As the demonstrators walked through the apartment complex Wednesday, they carried red signs and T-shirts that read "Stop the Violence." They gave candy to kids, while stopping and talking to residents who came outside their apartments once they heard the demonstrators coming through the area.

Demonstrations like this one provide an opportunity to make as much human contact as possible while showing people that someone cares, said Keith Moore, who is the director of the city's Office of Violence Prevention.

While the focus is on preventing gun violence, demonstrators have used the walks to connect people with information housing and jobs.

“So it’s not just about the gun violence," Moore said.

The important thing is raising people's standard of living, the demonstrators said.

“I just think there’s something to be said about a group of people who care," said Julie Beard, who has been going on the walks for about a year.

She said that if the campaign reaches just one person, then it has been a good day.

Alex Gladden is the Montgomery Advertiser's public safety reporter. She can be reached at agladden@gannett.com or 479-926-9570.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: 'Put these guns down': Rally seeks to spread message against violence