TROY, N.Y. – The Troy community gathered Friday night to rally for peace after several recent acts of violence.
The rally comes after an outbreak of arsons and a fatal stabbing that took the life of a 16-year-old. There have also been a total of six homicides in the last year.
About 50 people came out to Freedom Square Friday night to remember the lives of the individuals who lost their lives in what they deemed as senseless violence. The crowd wanted to spread the message that not only has Troy seen enough violence, but that it won’t end until the community itself decides to change.
Eshane Walker, 16, was killed in a stabbing at a party in Troy July 18. His death is the most recent incident of what some members of the community are calling an epidemic of violence.
Brooklynn Castro, 15, said she knew Eshane and was supposed to attend the same party.
“I could have been walking by. I could have been at the party,” she said. “You know…it’s luck.”
Castro said she feels the violence seems to be a random picking of who’s next, which is exactly why community members attended the rally.
“Our youth are dying, and they’re getting younger and younger,” organizer Rev. Tim Sherman said. “And it’s time for us to come together in solidarity and as a community and say enough is enough.”
It wasn’t only relatives and friends of Eshane who attended the rally. All six of the recent homicide victims in Troy were honored.
Shannon Williams’ niece, Vanessa Milligan, was murdered while pregnant in a fire in April 2014, and she admits that it took the loss of her niece to finally step up and seek change.
“Vanessa wasn’t one of these,” she said. “She wasn’t hood. She wasn’t street. She was raised really well.”
She said six murders in one year is six too many, which is why she came Friday to speak out.
“I mean I even have a past,” she said. “Everybody has a past, but there is still that room to change.”
Williams said she’ll be happy if she can change one life. But many at the rally said change will only happen when the community comes together.
“We’re here to stop this, and we’re here to give other people hope and make them feel comfortable because this is your community and it’s not fair that you don’t feel comfortable,” Castro said.
Organizers said changing the community will happen from the ground up which is why they said they will hold as many peace rallies as it takes until the violence ends.