DeAndra McCollum participated in the annual 2 Mile March 2 Stop Gang and Gun Violence for years, but the recent death of her brother gave her extra incentive to march Sunday.
Timothy McCollum, 30, was shot and killed inside his car June 9 near Walnut and North Erie streets. He is one of 29 homicide victims this year, according to The Blade’s homicide database.
His sister said she never thought it could happen to someone close to her.
“My brother had a family and four kids he loved dearly,” Ms. McCollum said. “He just wanted to see his kids go to school and graduate. His daughter had to come home from her summer vacation not knowing her father was gone.”
More than 100 people lined Central Avenue in the central city Sunday hoping to make the streets of Toledo safer. Many wore a white T-shirt sporting the name of the event, while others’ featured photos of loved ones gunned down in years past.
The annual march kicked off about 4 p.m. at Central and Detroit avenues. Numerous speakers including Toledo fire Chief Brian Byrd and Lucas County Judge Gene Zmuda approached the podium and shared personal stories.
Ms. McCollum also addressed the crowd.
“My niece and my daughter are only 5 years old,” she said. “They come to me all the time and say, ‘Auntie, Momma ... why did they have to take my uncle from me?’ How are we supposed to deal with these 5-year-olds asking why someone is gone from their family due to a senseless act?”
The neighborhood in the area of the rally is no stranger to the harsh reality of gang and gun violence, and neither is Chief Byrd. He shared stories of kids around the corner and down the street dying in his arms from a bullet meant for someone else.
He said some kids think crime is a glamorous life, and it’s up to everyone in the community to change their minds.
“They have to understand this devastation is just that,” Chief Byrd said. “Many times they don’t see the outcome because they walk away from it. The next thing they know, their friends are bringing teddy bears and flowers to a pole at the corner. There aren’t many things I cry about anymore, but that stuff makes me want to cry.”
The crowd proceeded with a police escort down Central and rallied near Stickney Avenue to enjoy food and live entertainment. Children received free backpacks with supplies.
A group was on site registering people to vote.
Organizer Chris McBrayer hopes the march promotes awareness to the community. He would like to see more from the city to keep youths off the streets.
“I think we need a government-run youth community center,” Mr. McBrayer said. “We don’t have one that’s Toledo’s own. That alone would help individuals have a safe haven year-round.”
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