Two Rhode Island groups planning monthly “Peace Walks”

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Two Rhode Island organizations that have worked for safer, gun free streets are jointly holding a Peace Walk on Saturday through some of the most dangerous streets in Providence.

Rhode Island Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence are scheduling monthly Peace Walks, beginning Saturday at 1 p.m. through what they describe as “neighborhoods that have experienced gun violence in Providence.”

They are choosing these at-risk communities to “express solidarity…and be a force for change.”

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The walk on Saturday kicks off at 1 p.m. from the Institute’s building at 265 Oxford St., Providence.

Both programs grew out of violent events – the national Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense was formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

In Rhode Island the group has focused on passage of legislation, the protect Rhode Island Families act, which was passed last year and the Red Flag act, which is winding its way through the legislature this year.

The Rhode Island Families act takes guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence, a bill that Amy Herlihy of the Rhode Island chapter says is “saving lives in Rhode Island.” The group is now working for passage of the Red Flag bill that would allow authorities to take weapons from those who show signs they are either a danger to the community or themselves. The bill has passed the state House of Representatives.

Herlihy says the group is non-partisan and supports the second amendment while promoting what she says are responsible gun control measures. Herlihy said the group is committed to becoming active in upcoming elections, supporting candidates who support reasonable gun control measures and opposing those who don’t.

Jose Rodriguez, director of Victims Services for the Institute, was a 17-year-old kid on the streets of Providence when a street worker from the Institute found him and helped him turn his life around. Like many from the area he’s seen his share of violence and recalls a moment when he saw a young man running from a house, gun in hand. Rodriguez says he ran up to him, hugged him, took the gun and threw it down a sewer. It changed the young man’s life. He went on to college and is now playing basketball professionally in Europe, Rodriguez says.

The Institute was founded 18 years ago after 15-year-old Jennifer Rivera, a key witness in a murder trial, was gunned down in front of her house the day before she was to testify.

In 2000, 15-year-old Jennifer Rivera was gunned down in front of her house. She was the state’s key witness in a murder trial and was to testify the next day. That year, 30 people were murdered in Providence, 45 killed statewide.

The St. Michael’s Ministry Team formed the Institute, and it has grown to provide a wide variety of services and training with the intent, Rodriguez says, of teaching non-violence, fostering “a community that addresses potentially violent situations with nonviolent solutions.”

Gun violence continues to escalate in America. The Centers for Disease Control says there were nearly 15,000-gun-related homicides in 2016, nearly 2,000 of those children. There were nearly 23,000 gun related suicides.

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