By SHALWAH EVANS
Residents gathered on Harrison Street Sunday and lit candles in protest of the violence that has recently plagued their home. Beginning at 8 pm, neighbors grouped together and lit candles in various places along Harrison between 23rd and 26th Street, talked about their personal lives, and chatted about local politics. The tight-knit group of more than 30 people asked passersby to join them in taking a stand for safety in their neighborhood.
“Hopefully people will come and feel better, safer, stronger,” said Erica Levin of the Inner Mission Community Association, who helped organize the event. She is now trying to unite more community organizations to rally for peace and get behind one candidate in the upcoming election for district supervisor.
The association has not officially endorsed a candidate, but most members are backing Eric Storey, who lit candles with them last night.
“I’m weeping with the rest of the residents about the violence, and lighting a candle for those who have fallen,” he said.
Rich Osweiler, who lives on Folsom Street, recalled an incident about two and a half months ago when he was assaulted by gang members wielding a gun. He said that the police responded immediately and an arrest was made, but the main perpetrator was back on the street four days later. He said things have gotten worse in the past month and everyone is “freaked out.”
Helmy Pomce posed candles in the form of a pyramid and decorated them with flowers outside of her home, where she said a woman was gunned down in the middle of the day. She has been living on Harrison Street for 17 years and refuses to take public transportation. She drives everywhere, she said, because she feels safer getting in and out of her car than walking the few blocks from the train station.
Though the streets gleamed with candle light for almost three blocks, some chose to watch from their homes. Shotwell resident Belmer Negrillo said some neighbors declined the invitation to participate, responding that it’s too dangerous to go outside after dark.
“It’s like an informal curfew,” he said, shaking his head and cupping a flame to stop it from blowing out.
The Inner Mission Community Association plans to hold monthly peace rallies, starting at 20th and Harrison and ending at Garfield Park, to bring residents together and show a force united for a better neighborhood.