Jackson Community Rallies for Peace in Wake of Recent Deaths

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

For Jackson resident Angel Nazaruk, the motive to hold an anti-violence rally was clear.

"The need for more respect and support in our community," she said.

She says it's the lack of those things that pushes people--like her friend who committed suicide six years ago--over the edge.

"Bullying, and not having support, not having anyone to talk to," she added.

Organizer Elizabeth Henderson says she's seen friends bullied for being gay or for choosing to have an abortion.

"All that needs to stop," she said. "There's no reason."

The rally comes after the death just weeks ago of 19 year-old Cherie Irving, whose body was found in Sandstone Creek, and the July shooting that killed 21-year-old Benjamin Willard.

"Right now is the time we need support the most with friends and people we know dying," said Nazaruk.

Organizers say at the very least they hope this rally would push young people to reevaluate their choices

"Who are you hanging out with?" asked Nazaruk. "Are they your friends or are they just people you're doing drugs with?"

The cause of Irving's death was a drug overdose. But some say she was pressured, and one of her friends had this message for other young people:

"When someone pressures you to do something, if they're your true friends they're not going to pressure you to do it," said Mary Jo Jackson.

Parents of both Irving and Willard attended the rally.

"It's still tough," said Patrick Hein, Irving's father. "I have good days and bad days. It's gonna be a long road for me."

A long road for Willard's mother, too. She says it's time people realize violence is not the answer.

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