The Rev. Avon Keen said bringing attention to increasing violence in Danville is even more important now than it was when an annual march was launched in the late 1980s to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

About 70 people gathered Sunday evening at Main Street Plaza for the annual march, hosted by the Southern Christian Leadership Council.

About 10 years later, Keen said, violence was becoming more prevalent and the march began to be called the Stop the Killing March.

“Bringing awareness to violence here is the main objective,” Keen, president of the local Southern Christian Leadership Council chapter, said. “People say they want it to stop, but they don’t join in to work together to solve the problem.”

Willie Richardson said he would like to see the march held within the neighborhoods where violence is a problem instead of on Main Street and Holbrook Avenue, the route the marchers were taking to a church service at Shiloh Baptist Church on Betts Street.

“We don’t need to walk up these streets … We need to march where it’s happening, knock on doors and talk to parents,” Richardson said — but he joined the march with the others at the plaza.

Any march that brings attention to the problem in Danville is good, John A. Mayo said.

“The best way to get the message out is to march,” Mayo said.

Danville City Councilman Gary Miller said he has joined the march for the past 10 years.

“We have to keep marching until we bring the walls of Jericho down and stop the killing,” Miller said. “I don’t understand it. In my day, you’d have fist fights. Now you’ll get shot if you accidently step on someone’s shoes.”

The homicide rate and overall violence in Danville is having a negative effect on efforts to recruit doctors, teachers and other professionals to Danville, as well as turning potential new businesses away.

“Everything is fine until they hear about the violence here,” Miller said. “Everything else is going great, but the violence is the one thing that’s holding us back.”

The Rev. Cecil Bridgeforth, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, helped people line up for the march, shouting to attract their attention: “Nobody can save us from us but us! Stop the violence! Stop the killing!”

Melissa Dix held a brightly-colored sign quoting a Jimi Hendrix song: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace,” and finished her sign off with a quote from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “Humble yourself.”

Dix explained she is from Danville, but has moved her family to Pittsylvania County because of the violence.

“It’s safer for my children,” Dix said. “My son is here with me. His cousin was murdered in Danville.”

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Denice Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at dthibodeau@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7985.

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