PALMETTO — No more violence. That was the message tonight when dozens gathered in front of the Palmetto Police Department in a rally sparked by a shooting at a Palmetto night club last week. People talked about the deaths of Gwenette Matthews and Trayon Goff and the 22 others who were wounded as well as other acts of violence in the community.
They held up signs with messages against gun use, some urged people to turn to religion.
“This is about the people. There was a massacre that took place in our community and it needs to be addressed,” said Shavonda Bailey, a community activist and rally organizer. “People need to feel safe. People need to know that we care.”
Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells, Lt. Scott Tyler, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bob Mealy and other officials attended the event and listened to the attendees’ pleas for a safer community.
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Former Manatee County sheriff’s deputy Corie Holmes said he would like to see more black and minority officers and deputies in “black neighborhoods.” “Get black young people in these areas where they know the people. I was there, I worked there, I understand how important it is,” Holmes said. “They have to know they will be put in jail. They have to be held accountable.”
The relationship between law enforcement and the community needs to be strengthened, rally attendees said.
Wells said better communication between law enforcement and the community will help to solve crimes faster.
“We know someone saw the shooter before and someone saw the shooter after,” he said. Someone needs to care enough to come forward and provide information.
Bailey promised she and others will start getting the community involved.
“We want to make a difference, we want everyone to come together,” she said. “We want for our community to know there are solutions to the madness at hand, and that’s why we came together, to talk about some of those solutions because with the solutions, people will know there will be a change.”
Some of their suggestions include having churches provide anger management classes, family therapy, mentor groups and other services to the community. Rally organizers want more libraries in low income areas and training academies for youth.
Brandy Belvin, 33, wants a safer community for her children.
“I want them to be safe and it’s not safe,” she said. “These parents need to start parenting. It starts from home.”