By Andres Fuentes | WVUE | March 8, 2023
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – People gathered in the hundreds before Pontilly Coffee to trek along Chef Menteur Highway to Louisa St. and back again.
Many carried signs of kindness, love, peace and prayer as they walked behind Bobby Belcher, who carried a wooden cross along the journey.
He says the march was meant to share a simple message.
“We want our communities back and we want to claim them in the name of Jesus,” Belcher said.
The Bethel Community Baptist Church organized the peace walk. The crowd marched side-by-side and stopped along the way to pray and sing near sites of recent shootings.
Last month, a man was shot and killed at a bus stop near a Walmart on the highway and back in December, four people were shot at a Dollar Tree.
“We are tired of the violence, and we are tired of the crime, the carjackings, the thefts, the drugs, the prostitution, the alcohol,” Belcher said.
According to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the NOPD’s Third District, which the neighborhood is located in, is seeing a 67% increase in homicides and a 14% increase in carjackings compared to last year. However, it’s also seeing a 43% dip in shootings and a 59% decrease in armed robberies.
Organizers say the march was to symbolize a united front against criminal behavior.
“Go to your local church. Go to your local church. Go be a member. That’s how the crime is going to be solved,” Pastor Melvin Jones said. “I used to be a crack head, heroin user, alcoholic, lived on the streets for three years. God changed me. That’s what we are dealing with here right now.”