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Clergy, community leaders gather in prayer for peace
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The Revs. Christopher Roper, Matthew Little, Richard Tate and evangelist Genell Tate each say a prayer Saturday during a “United We Stand: Unity in the Community” event on Athens Street in Gainesville. Attendees released balloons in memory of family and friends killed in Gainesville and Hall County. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Ricko Bledson, Jaquerian Harrison, Phil Smith.

One name read after another, Layondra Blackshear helped pass out balloons to the mothers, widows and loved ones of those killed in Gainesville and Hall County.

“As we release these balloons, oh God, we release them in faith, God, that all is well,” evangelist Genell Tate said in a prayer circle on Athens Street held Saturday evening.

Dozens gathered for “United We Stand: Unity in the Community,” an event intending to bring together community members to address issues around the county.

“We’re praying for peace,” said Blackshear, who helped organize the event with Ericka Glenn.

The Rev. Christopher Roper and Imam Bilal Ali spoke to the crowd, calling for members of the community to make a change.

“Never miss an opportunity like this. I’m not here for my health. I’m here to make a difference. Lives have been taken,” Roper said.

Monday, Gainesville police said Marquis Bonds threatened multiple people with an AK-47, including Ali. Ali previously told The Times a car came from behind him and parked, as Bonds allegedly reached for the rifle.

“The clock didn’t run out on me at 9 o’clock Monday for whatever reason,” Ali said, who discussed self-policing of the community. “I have some more work to do.”

Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee and others stressed the power of voting and holding local officials accountable for creating a better city.

“You have not truly believed until you want for your brothers and sisters what you want for yourself,” Ali said.

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