SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With chants of peace, two dozen community members were joined by Sacramento police officers in a walk around Grant Union High School’s campus on Tuesday with goals: end violence and inspire.
“What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” The chants rang out after 12:30 p.m. as high schoolers in the Del Paso Heights community got out of class. They were greeted with the faces of people who want to help however they need it.
Job assistance, mental health, uncertainty about gangs or violence, trouble at home — there is likely a mentor within the peace walk that once stood where some teens find themselves today. That’s the point. To be there, over and over, with support and prayer until change is visible and unstoppable.
This message straight from the walk’s organizer, ‘Sistah’ Pat Roundtree Rivers, who is also a local pastor, started peace walks years ago but the pandemic forced them to stop — until now.
“If we get out in their face [with prayer], I hope and pray it’s going to make a difference,” said Pat.
She explained the walks started at night. She would rally community members in her church to walk the neighborhood she grew up in. When the group was smaller, they would drive to areas where they knew they might find youths. All the while, they wore T-shirts that promoted prayer and peace.
Now, the 1.6-mile loop around the Grant Union High School campus will be walked every other Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., brought back after the downtown Sacramento mass shooting on April 3.
“If they see people in the community and the police together, promoting peace, that’s the only thing that is going to help our community,” said Pat.
The downtown Sacramento shooting was the deadliest in Sacramento’s history. Investigators and the Sacramento County District Attorney described the violence on 10th and K Streets as a gang battle. Six people died in the shooting, three of those, innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, according to investigators. The cause of the violence was a fight between two rival gangs.
This violence is not a new headline for community leaders at the Neighborhood Wellness Foundation, who said gun violence is a reality many families in their Del Paso Heights community know all too well.
“This didn’t just start, we’re not gonna put this just on that [the downtown shooting]. We’re gonna put this on what’s going on in the community. How do we change that?” asked Sonia Smith, a leader in the community who works with youth, unhoused, and even writes grants to receive community funding.
Another leader added: “It was before K Street, way before K Street, and we’re still out here walking the same stuff every day.”
“We’re trying to show them real love. I believe love will stop the violence,” said Pat.
The Del Paso Heights Peace Walks happen on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. The walk starts at 3805 Clay St, Sacramento, CA 95838, at the Neighborhood Wellness Foundation.