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Residents hold Gainesville rally, march against violence
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Rodney Turner prepares a sign before a march protesting violence that’s rocking communities. Imam Bilal Ali of the Gainesville Islamic Center led the event.

With chants of “Kids are our future, let them live,” some 35 people marched on Gainesville streets Sunday afternoon to protest violence that’s rocking communities.

“We need to stop the violence, stop it with the kids,” said Kwesi Dowell, nodding toward a group of nearby youngsters holding signs with such messages as “Let us grow” and “Peace on the streets.”

Another marcher referred to a string of recent violence, including the September shooting death of Terry Jerome Maddox, 30, of Gainesville. Darvis Donquan Bledson, 33, was booked in at the Hall County Jail on Thursday, facing a felony murder charge in that case.

“There was a lady out here who got robbed, got pistol-whipped,” said another marcher, Rodney Turner. “So, a lot of young guys got guns, and they’re using them the wrong way.”

The group, led by Imam Bilal Ali of the Gainesville Islamic Center, walked from near the Hall County Health Department on Athens Street to Wimberly & Jackson Funeral Home off Summit Street.

“These kids are our future,” Ali said before the march. “So hopefully, from this group here, others will join. If not, we’ll speak to this group and they’ll benefit — we’ll make an impact in their lives.”

The Gainesville Police Department escorted the marchers along their route, at one point blocking E.E. Butler Parkway so they could cross the four-lane street.

The event wrapped with a rally in an open field next to the funeral home, where several speakers spoke to a small crowd.

Among them was Gainesville resident Kareem Harris, who also read a poem he had written, “Things Have Got to Change.”

“What must I do to let you know that there’s a heaven above and that people are catching hell on earth,” Harris read from his poem.

“... What we do in darkness of night must come to light, and what goes around — it comes back around to where it all started, so be strong-hearted.”

Clergy and community leaders held a similar event in August to decry violence.

In that event, names of people killed in Gainesville and Hall County were read aloud while balloons were passed to their mothers, widows and loved ones.

“As we release these balloons, oh God, we release them in faith, God, that all is well,” evangelist Genell Tate said at the event.

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