The more than 500 participants who gathered at the Glassell Park Recreation Center on Saturday to take part in the annual Peace in the Northeast March had many different motivations for walking.
Some, like David Kekone of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council and Philip Iglauer of the Northeast Los Angeles Coalition, marched to promote community focused organizations.
Joe Carmona, who runs Peace Inc., a support organization for at-risk families in Northeast Los Angeles, marched to make connections with community members committed to stop gang violence.
Religious Groups like Victory Outreach in Eagle Rock, the East Los Angeles Life and Light Christian School and the Scientology Volunteer Ministers marched to spread a message of faith.
Members of the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division marched to let the community know that they were committed to stamping out the presence of gangs in the Northeast, said LAPD Northeast Division Captain William Murphy.
Others, like Mariana Salas, whose father Marcos Salas was shot dead in front of while holding a two year old child in his arms, marched for lost loved ones.
Ultimately, though, they all marched with the same goal in mind--to bring peace to the Northeast.
"We want peace in the Northeast!" the marchers chanted as they filed past the homes and business of Glassell Park toward in Cypress Park.
At the conclusion of the route, marchers gathered for a community resource fair, where groups from across Northeast Los Angeles had set up booths in hopes of attracting new members or reaching out to those in need of services.
Ramiro Motta, of Aztecs Rising, said the Peace in the Northeast resource fair was an excellent opportunity "to let the community know we're here."
"A lot of what we do is reaching out to the hardcore gang members, but we also want to let people know that we're focused on prevention too," he said. "If families are concerned that their child might be getting involved in gang life, we can talk to them."
Capt. Murphy, who took his post in the Northeast during a 2008 peak in violence, said he first encouraged local clergy to organize the march because he knew law enforcement had to reach out the community if it ever hoped to make progress in reducing gang violence in the area.
Though gang violence is still a fact of life in Northeast Los Angeles--one man was shot dead and another critically injured outside a home on Isabel St. in Cypress Park on Saturday, May 7--violent crime has significantly dropped in the area.
The steep decline in violent crime can in large part be attributed to LAPD's intense 2008 crackdown on gang members living on Drew St. in Glassell Park, but community engaging events like the Peace in the Northeast March have played a major role as well, Murphy said.
"It's meant a lot to the whole community, a lot of different grassroots organizations have come out of this" he said. "They've partnered up with us, and we've dropped the crime rate significantly. Back in '08 we had 16 homicides and this year we're at two. Tremendous change. We couldn't have done it without the clergy and community groups that joined us."