Former Active Gang Member pleads for violence to stop

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — A group is hoping that the community steps up and helps out with the violence plaguing certain communities in Chattanooga.

They are calling on gang members to put the guns down and not set that example for young people.

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On Saturday, they held their first Stop the Violence rally in Alton Park for what they hope is the beginning of change in their community.

Toriq Q Johnson, who lost his son to violence, says this issue is “not just on the Southside, but also on the east, the west, the north, all sides.”

They marched through Alton Park Saturday to show unity among those impacted by violence in the area.

Darrius Sneed, a former active Athen Park Bloods gang member, says, when I seen that little guy up on the corner it broke me you know. That could be anybody son out here.”

Sneed was referring to last weeks homicide. One that added to the countless reasons that this group says they are not just demanding change, but taking steps to make it happen.

Sneed says, “I got to looking at my kids. I have two sons. It hurt me to the heart that I knew this is where they were leading to.

Johnson hopes this event sends “out a message to be what he [Sneed] used to be.”

Sarita Burch, who lost her son in October of 2013, says “We must unite. We have to fight this fight” and “takes all of this to step up and see about these kids.”

Sneed says passionately, “I choose me and my family I don’t choose them anymore.”

The group of mothers say they are very proud of that choice.

A pastor prayed over the group before the march saying, “We will not let the devil have our kids, we will not let the enemy get the victory neither will we let the devil steal our joy.”

Sonya Palmer, mother of Ladarius Cross, says he was killed November 18, 2017 due to gang violence.

Courtney Strickland says her son Derrick Strickland was shot due to gang violence, was revived twice and lived. She says he was saved by the grace of God.

Shakia Wells says her daughter was stabbed on December 19th 2011. She was an innocent bystander of violence.

Together, they hope Darius shows the gang members in the community that they have to step up first to begin to stop the violence that has caused so much heart ache.