The unusual October humidity notwithstanding, about 350 people marched through the streets of Washington Saturday morning, urging an end to violence and criminality in the community.
The “March Against Violence” was the second such procession to happen in as many years and took place one day after the first anniversary of the killing of Washington & Jefferson College student Tim McNerney. The 21-year-old from Butler County was a running back on the college’s football team, when he and a friend were attacked when leaving a downtown Washington bar early in the morning of Oct. 4, 2012. Three men were arrested in August and charged with criminal homicide, theft and other offenses.
The march started on the W&J campus and snaked into the Highland-Ridge area, down Main Street, through the Washington County Courthouse complex, onto Wheeling Street and back to the college. Many of those marching wore yellow to show their support.
“We have to bring all of the city together,” said Don McKnight, a resident of the city’s West End and a member of a neighborhood watch group.
The event was organized by officials from the city, the Washington School District and W&J, and a handful of local organizations lent their support, including Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living and the Washington branch of the NAACP. Before the march got under way, W&J President Tori Haring-Smith said, “We all came together and said we need to work together for Washington to be a place we can live and a place where we can study.”
Brenda Davis, Washington’s mayor, said, “We must teach our youth that violence is not the answer.”
Eight months after McNerney’s death, the Washington area was staggered again by another murder when 46-year-old Vincent Kelley was shot to death while trying to foil an armed robbery at the Giant Eagle store in South Strabane Township. His sister-in-law, Rebecca Kelley, attended the march and pointed out that “everybody respected him.”
“Vince stood alone that day and decided it was the right thing to do,” she added. Kelley’s killer remains at-large.
Another guest at the march was Elwin Green, a community activist in Pittsburgh who has spearheaded efforts to revitalize the city’s Homewood neighborhood. He offered tips on how residents can take a proactive role in their communities and that “it takes time to get things started.”
“It’s always easy to have a first meeting,” Green explained. “It’s harder to have a second meeting and a real challenge to have a third meeting.”
He also suggested that next year’s march change its moniker from being “against violence” to being “for peace.”