By David Cruz
In the Christian tradition the Stations of the Cross represent Christ’s final procession on the day of his crucifixion. It is with that sacrifice in mind that an interdenominational rainbow of residents held a symbolic procession with crime scenes marking the Stations of the Cross, beginning on Communipaw Avenue, where three teenagers were shot, one fatally, at a birthday party.
This is a city not lacking for crime scenes: 24 homicides, 80 shootings last year, with more frequent spasms of multiple shootings, like two homicides in the final week of March, and eight people shot in an eight-day period last summer, mostly always teenagers shooting other teenagers, with the glut of illegal guns the frequent tool of choice. They marched through the middle of the city, on streets far removed from the relative safety and luxury of downtown, stopping at sites marked by anguish.
They hammered symbolic nails into the cross at each scene, including on Clinton Avenue where an early morning argument between two men in their 20’s ended with a fatal gunshot.
“We’re trying to bring people’s minds and consciousness to the violence that is going on and that it’s not a good thing, and so we’re gathering with people of different faiths to be in unity against the violence that is occurring in our communities,” said Frances Teabout, the pastor of Open Door Worship Center in the city.
“The message is one of healing and peace,” said Jessica Lambert, pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, “that this is hallowed ground, that these are places that we can reclaim as places that are sacred to us, places that have been marked by violence and destruction, and we are claiming that these people are not forgotten and that they are beloved by us and by God.”
Jersey City resident Joanne Lopez saw one of the shootings, along Martin Luther King Drive, and said it left her sad, hoping that today’s demonstration would inspire others.
“It’s not going to work overnight,” she said, “but it’s a process and it’s so sad to see that life is taken like it has no price in it. We love. We love each other. And we need to stay in love, not in hatred.”
The city says it’s trying to do its part. Fifty recruits are expected to go through the academy in 2017 and the current force is over 900 strong for the first time in two decades. But it takes more than police. It takes an entire community, banding together and calling for peace and fostering hope, even when it feels like you’re repeating yourself, over and over, week after week.