Marchers Press for Peace in Compton
Six hundred people staged a March for Peace through the streets of Compton on Friday, pausing to re-create scenes from Christ’s Passion at locations where children and teenagers have been killed since the beginning of the year.
A performer dressed as Jesus fell at Acacia Avenue and Elm Street, as Christ first fell at the third station of the cross on Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa. The performer fell again two blocks later.
“Where Jesus has been falling, our children have been shot and killed,” said Father Stan Bosch, pastor at two Compton parishes that organized the march -- Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church.
The nearly two-mile march halted 14 times Friday afternoon, reenacting each of the traditional stations of the cross. But the stops were not enough to mourn each of the city’s young victims. Remarkably, 21 Compton children and teens have died as a result of gun violence since Jan. 1.
Bosch said he hoped the march would send a positive message through the community that ultimately brings an end to gang violence. He said the march allowed Compton residents to meet their neighbors, which he believes is essential in limiting violence in the community.
“There is a real power when our people are out and knowing each other,” Bosch said in the 600 block of North Alameda Street, another spot where the performer dressed as Jesus fell, as Christ fell three times on his way to the cross.
“A person is less likely to shoot another person if they know them by name,” Bosch said.
Jimmy Ponce, a church youth leader marching in the parade, attributed much of the violence in Compton to street gangs. He said most gang members lack the guidance they need from parents and members of the community to stay clear of violent behavior.
Bosch met Ponce outside Our Lady of Victory during a gang fight eight years ago.
Standing behind a chain-link fence in the 1500 block of Culver Avenue, Luis Rodriguez watched the parade pass with his 9-year-old daughter, Priscilla, who was licking an ice cream cone.
Rodriguez said the community needed the march but worried that the violence would continue. “What will happen two, three days from now?” he asked. “Where will the police be then?”
Ernesto Briseno, a marcher, admitted being a former gang member. But on Friday, the 18-year-old helped celebrate the life of Jesus.
“Look at me now,” Briseno said. “I want to change people’s lives. It starts with yourself, then with helping others, then you can change your community.”
As he walked, Ramon Santiago, 22, suggested that an endless cycle of envy and greed contributed to the city’s daily gang violence.
Near the end of the march, Bosch asked for participants who had lost loved ones to street violence in Compton to raise their hands. About half of all hands shot up into the air.
“We believe we are shining a light in the midst of darkness,” Bosch said.
Mohamed Newlove wrapped his arms around his 4-year-old daughter, Laura, as they walked away.
Newlove, 25, said he feared for the safety of his two children as he raises them in Compton.
“I stick to them like glue,” Newlove said. “If I don’t, the streets are going to put them away.”