The event “Take Back the City”, so called in reference to the “Take Back the Site” events which bring attention to problems of rape and sexual violence, took place along E. 10th Street and Franklin Avenue on Saturday, Oct. 11. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Erie is almost in the top 10 percent of cities with the most violent crime and property crime per population. Some of the residents of Erie have decided this is much too high, and wanted to get the word out about it.
Tony Piotrowski, husband of Darlene Piotrowski, agreed to speak while his wife was organizing the event and talked some about why the event was organized. “This ‘Take Back the City’ is only the beginning of our campaign to curb violence in this part of the city. We want there to be a visible showing of people who care about making the city better.” Tony hopes that this is merely the first event of more to come, where the turnout will hopefully span the length of the city (seven miles along 10th Street) to show other residents their solidarity against violence.
“In addition to also making it visible to the criminals of the city that we don’t want it to be this way, we want other residents to know that they aren’t alone in thinking that the violence is a problem, especially the young and the elderly who are in fear in their homes. This is our version of the Ice-Bucket Challenge.” When asked what kind of affect they hoped to achieve, Tony said, “We want to make this problem more visible, and we want to reach out to the youth and their parents. One of the driving factors of violence is parents who aren’t involved with their children enough, and as we know, the children are the future of the city.”
Also present at the rally was Andre Horton, Erie County Representative for the 2nd District, of which Erie’s eastside is a part. Andre led the event off with a prayer for everybody present, and for the other residents affected by the violence, and for those perpetrating the violence. “The people who organized this event are a part of my district, and protests and activists here are important to me to know what is important to the public.” When asked what he most hoped to achieve, he said “I want what everybody else wants, an end to the killing, and end to the bloodshed, and an end to the fear that people have that prevents them from feeling safe when they leave their homes. That’s what I want.”
In addition, Horton also named the things which perpetuated the problems, “We have problems of children with broken homes, horrible unemployment, heavy-handed policing which hurts public trust, a public which is distrustful of the police (for reasons both good and bad), and not enough vocal support for peace in the communities. For one, I think that if you want to stop violence, get a man a job, because he won’t have time to commit crime if he’s too busy at his job.”
The Piotrowskis are confident that this will only become larger as time goes on. The couple started to drive west down 10th Street to see how many others came out to support by making the visible gesture of standing at the street.