You could see the look of frustration turn to one of hope on District 4 City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux’s face as scores of residents — young and old, black and white — showed up at Pontiac Point Wednesday afternoon, ready to brave rainfall if necessary to show their love and support for a community in crisis.
“Ultimately, it’s to stop that next gun shot,” Boudreaux told the crowd, as a group of about a dozen local ministers of varying denominations lined up behind him on a section of Jefferson Street, across the street from Northside Baptist Church, that had been blocked off by the Lafayette Police Department. “We’re in a safe environment. The streets are blocked. It’s ours.” Taking back the streets from those armed with guns and ready to kill was the theme of the night, which emphasized prayer, peace, family involvement and healing. The message was delivered by pastor after pastor who took to the podium.
View a gallery of photos from the Pontiac Point prayer vigil here.
Pontiac Point — where Jefferson, Surrey, Simcoe and Moss streets meet — was chosen for its proximity to the vast majority of the 16 shooting deaths in the city limits in the past year. “This is central,” Boudreaux said. “This rally is about affecting as much [of the community] as we can.”
According to The Advocate, four of those killed were between 18 and 19 years old, seven were between the ages of 21 and 33 and five were between the ages of 44 and 64. "As of Wednesday night, accused shooters had not been identified in at least five of the killings, including the Dec. 10 slaying of 57-year-old Rosando Gonzales, of Lafayette, on Surrey Street,” the paper reported Thursday.
Additionally, the paper noted that officers this year have also investigated at least 35 nonfatal shootings, with at least 24 people — including seven teenagers — injured by the gunfire.
“It doesn’t matter what side of the track you live on,” Boudreaux’s pastor, the Rev. Robert Johnson Sr. of Louisiana Avenue Methodist Church, told the crowd. “It affects us all.”
In the days leading up to the vigil, which was promoted almost solely on social media, the anger and frustration building up in Boudreaux were evident on his Facebook page: “Residents of our community are being killed in our streets by people who look like them. No one sees or says anything. Someone who does not look like the victim kills him and we yell, shout, march, rally, protest, get angry, upset and do something about it. We can never be silent!”
At one point early Wednesday evening, the Rev. Ben Carter of Church Beyond Walls asked everyone to join hands in prayer, and another pastor later asked all law enforcement (Chief Jim Craft was also in attendance) and elected officials to come forward in prayer.
Prayer alone won’t solve the crime problems plaguing the Northside, Boudreaux admitted after the rally, but he said if the entire community does not realize how much it affects us all and can come together to find solutions, the problems will persist.
“I’m just grateful to all of Lafayette, but I’m particularly grateful to the church community, to those who stepped up and stepped out and brought the prayers of God and prayers of conviction before us,” Boudreaux said in a video recorded by Susannah Malbreaux immediately after the rally.
“The call to action has been given. This is about motivating resources for me. How do we get our young men to solve their differences in a more peaceful way? How do we get folks to put down guns and realize guns are not the answer? We tap into our resources, and we allow those who are trained to do it, let them do it. Too many homicides in 2015. In 2016, let’s cut that number to zero.”