West Philly residents mark MLK Day by pleading for end to gun violence

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In West Philadelphia on Monday night, residents marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day by pleading for an end to gun violence.

Mikell Stokes has been touched by gun violence twice. First, her son Gerald Campbell, and most recently her wife, Melanie Raye in 2020.

She joined a dozen of other mothers on the 200 block of Simpson Street on Monday, all of whom have lost children to gun violence. They're mission to call attention to the continued bloodshed on city streets, as part of a call to action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"I thought I needed to come out to the event to be a part of the solution," said Stokes. "When I was growing up, it's totally different from now."

Just as she was finishing her thought, shots fired a block away in the middle of our interview.

"This is something that I have to hear every day," said Stokes.

The city saw almost 500 homicides last year, and according to police statistics, are averaging nearly a homicide a night in the first 18 days of 2021.

On Monday night, a 17-year-old boy and a 25-year-old driver were both killed in separate shootings. A 13-year-old boy escaped serious injury after being shot in the foot in another shooting early in the evening.

SEE ALSO: Teen shot in face, driver dead during violent night in Philadelphia

Derrick Smith, the block Captain for the 200 block of Simpson Street, says it's critical to stop this violence.

"A young boy was killed down the street," said Smith, referring to the shooting death of 7-year-old Zamar Jones who was playing on his front porch last August when he was killed.

Activists and community members spent Monday evening cleaning up his memorial-- a reminder of the undercurrent of violence.

"We're looking for a change in 2021. After 2020, if we don't have a vision of where we need to go, there's no excuses," said Colwin Williams with CeaseFire Pennsylvania.
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