Mobile, Alaa. (and) – As part of National Victims Rights Week – loved ones left behind by violent crimes stand together. The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office hosted the annual Vigil for Victims.
Many of these families are still grieving and in some cases still seeking justice. The vigil was about them and their loved ones and the fight against violent crime.
13-year-old Mackenzie Hall was only 8 years old when her father, Harry Williams Matthews III, was murdered.
“This is the fourth year I’ve attended the event. I feel like it helps show my story to people…I like to encourage them to be okay…just to keep pushing,” Hall said.
The Mobile County District Attorney welcomed families to Cooper Riverside Park — saying she recognized old and new faces at this year’s vigil.
“We are making sure that we are doing everything we can to achieve justice in these cases,” D.A. Rich said. “I can’t sue all of these cases, but I will tell you that the members of the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office — every single one of them — are here for you.”
While families may be strangers – they share their grief and trauma at the loss of a loved one. Many were victims of armed violence.
“Some of these kids I know — from the pictures here. Jasmine Pettway, I know. This loss to gun violence hurts — it’s a struggle — every single day with everyone who goes on with their lives. We are still stuck in a emptiness”.
18-year-old Gage Taylor was murdered five years ago. This is the first time his family has attended the vigil.
“Gaige was liked by a lot of people. So we got a lot of support. Tiffany Head, Gaige’s mother said. And I just want to make the point that violence doesn’t stop violence. It doesn’t help the situation, it just makes it worse.”
With Port City close to setting a record in homicides last year — Mobile Public Safety Director Lawrence Baptiste says they can’t fight the deadly violence alone.
“You simply don’t report it – tell these individuals who are out to terrorize certain neighborhoods and communities that it’s OK – because no one is going to say anything. So – I think instead of saying I’m afraid to report it… I think you should be afraid of Not reporting,” said Batiste.
One by one, family members read the names of their loved ones out loud. The butterfly version also indicates that they will never forget the lives that tragically disappeared.
Tiffany Head, Gage Taylor’s mother, wanted to share the following message with the other families:
I want to start by offering my condolences to everyone here and to those who were unable to stay with us but who suffered because of the violence in our community. I am really sorry. I may not know the exact circumstances of every family that is here today, but I understand your suffering, pain, and loss. I know how you feel when your whole world is turned upside down. I know the heartache, depression and even anger that flows through your life like a mighty river and devours everything in its path. In 2017, I lost my son to senseless violence. Gaige had just turned 18, his whole life was ahead of him, and he didn’t deserve to die. No one deserves such a fate and my heart beats everyday for him and the potential life he stole from him at such a young age.
At this moment we gather to remember our loved ones but today it is not just about remembering. It is also about providing a voice for justice, a voice for those who can no longer speak for themselves. We all share a common thread, and a burden has been placed upon me for all who have experienced violence. I wanted to collect statistics showing the severity of the conditions in which Mobile found itself. But in preparing for this speech today I had no time, but no need of statistics to convey to you the crisis in which our city finds itself. As you have all, unfortunately, experienced firsthand the injustice of hate and violence in your life. And for those who haven’t, open your eyes and ears, our sons and daughters fall prey to murder every day. It is no longer safe to walk the streets, go to sporting events, or even sit in the comfort of your car at a red light. Our crime rate is rising steadily, our justice and prison systems are broken and even reformed, and perpetrators of violence are being taken off the streets and held accountable for their actions to a degree that reflects the seriousness of the crimes they commit. It will continue to rise.
I’m not here to point the finger instead, I’m here to plead with our fellow citizens to get up in business. No one should ever suffer from the disparities we have and I pray that the violence within our city stops, but unless our fellow citizens move away from a state of complacency, change will not happen. A democracy that is built for the people will not survive unless it is accountable to the people. As a citizen, the responsibility to participate lies with us. It is imperative that we play an active role in our government by educating ourselves about the political position of our candidates and then participating in the elections by voting. As components, we must demand that our elected officials represent our interests and needs. We must demand funds to build new prison systems and work together to create legislation that fixes a broken system. No offender should be released before he has served at least 80% of his sentence. The purpose of our district attorney is not to deliver intimate deals that bring hard-line institutionalized murders back onto the street to commit more crimes or even to obtain convictions that are aesthetically pleasing on paper. Our attorney general’s job is to get justice, uphold the law, and make sure the guilty are held accountable and innocent people are not convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Our DA must be willing to put in the work to get this justice and we must hold them accountable.
Before I leave, I have one last appeal to our fellow citizens and victims. I appeal to you not to take the law into your own hands in the search for justice, through more violence. Violence does not negate violence, it only exacerbates the status quo. My son Gage had to learn this lesson at the cost of his life. I know and feel your frustration but there is a better way to get justice. I do not wish to lose a child to any mother. We must unite together. Together our voices cannot be muffled, we must strive to build a safe and just society for all our sons and daughters. I do not wish to cause more chaos and destruction, but rather to show the world the impact of the love Gaige has made in my life, and in doing so we will leave a legacy in the names of our loved ones that will build a better tomorrow.
Now let us take a moment of silence for the memory of our loved ones to be a prayer.
O God, I humble myself before You and come to You today with praise in my heart for You and You alone are worthy. We gather to remember our fallen loved ones, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our nephews and nephews, our cousins, and our dear friends. Our lives have been forever changed by acts of violence and foolish hatred; Our hearts are sad. Knowing that you are the Lord the Great Comforter, I pray that you will comfort those full of sorrow, and that you will provide comfort to anxiety, and heal the broken. I ask you to protect us from those who have evil intentions and are waiting inside our city to claim the next victim, I pray that what happened in the darkness is shown, Lord, we seek justice. Not only for our loved ones but for all citizens.
I am asking you to build leaders within the community who will stand together and fight for the integrity of our community. I pray that you will give our elected officials wisdom, strength, and direction so that justice may be served according to your will. And let your will be done as in heaven on earth. In the name of Jesus, may God bless us all amen.
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