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#COMMUNITYAWARENESS : Parade float memorial to Island’s gunshot victims

Memorial: Joshua O’ Brien and Stefan Somner place flowers on a float built by the group Stand Up Bermuda at Sousa’s Landscape, Camp Hill, over the weekend for tomorrow’s Bermuda Day Parade. The float has wreaths and portraits in remembrance of the Island’s gun victims since 2009.
(Photo by Glenn Tucker)

Family and friends of Bermuda’s gun victims will walk together tomorrow alongside a memorial float bearing the faces of those lost to violence.

“Their loved ones may have been seen as enemies, but we’re all going to be together on May 24,” said Stand Up Bermuda spokeswoman Shawnette Somner.

The activist group, which now has 2,700 members online, has created the float to bring people together and spread the word about its planned June 26 peace rally.

Ms Somner said: “Our group has been growing very rapidly, because Bermudians are desperate for solutions and changes and not the same rhetoric and complaints.

“These families have had to bear the brunt of what’s been happening, and people have reached a point where they’ve just had enough of it.”

A placard carried by a flatbed truck along the Bermuda Day parade route will carry portraits of Bermuda’s 16 recent gun victims [see sidebar], with wreaths of flowers.

Stand Up Bermuda has appealed via the Facebook website for relatives of the dead to contact them, and Ms Somner said many families of gun victims responded positively when contacted for permission to use the pictures.

“We’ve gotten good feedback from half the families, and quite a few will be out there walking with the float. We’ll have well over 100 people going with it,” she said.

Group founder Jahma Gibbons said he had been in contact with the families of gun victims Perry Puckerin shot last year on January 3 and Colford Ferguson and Jahmiko LeShore, the first two murdered in 2011.

Father-of-one Mr Ferguson, 29, was gunned down on February 4, while doing construction work on East Shore Road, Sandys.

Expectant father Mr LeShore, 26, was killed on March 1 by assailants who waited in hiding outside his girlfriend’s residence on Boundary Crescent, Devonshire.

Mr Gibbons said: “Most of the families want to be involved in some way and they like the memory page we have now on the Stand Up website. I have also got Ralph Burrows to be a part of our May 24 float. He’s been paralysed by a gun shot.”

Mr Burrows, 41, was immobilised from the neck down after a bullet struck him in the neck during the early hours of November 27 2010, as he rode a motorcycle on Mission Lane in Pembroke.

Mr Gibbons said: “I don’t think he’s ever going to walk again. He’s an actual, living victim of this violence whose life has been changed, who can talk to young people.”

Created earlier in the year, Stand Up Bermuda now has a core committee of 12 to deal with its burgeoning membership with preacher and activist Scott Smith among them.

Mr Smith explained: “What we’re trying to promote is our peace rally on June 26, when people will walk from Dockyard and from St George’s and come together at City Hall to talk about what we’ve got to do to stem this tide of violence. We are in a dilemma and we need help. We need to get through to these guys who are doing this.”

That event next month will be attended by motivational speaker Dennis Rahiim Watson, chairman of the National Youth and Gang Violence Task Force in the US.

Although tomorrow’s memorial is specifically for shooting victims and their families, the group says its overall mission is broader.

“Stand Up Bermuda is an anti-violence group,” Ms Somner said. “We want to focus on all violence, whether it’s domestic violence, hatred in general. Gun violence is freshest on everyone’s minds, but we don’t want to forget any of the victims we’ve had over the years.
Story by www.theroyalgazette

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