March against gangs draws about 1,500

At age 8, he already knows enough about gangs to know he doesn't want to be in one.

"They do bad stuff, like fight and use knives and guns, and things like that," Jakson Sanders said.

He would like to see the bad stuff stop, so he was one of about 1,500 people who participated in the Wichita Walk Against Gang Violence on Saturday. The walk was co-sponsored by the Wichita Police Department, Safe Streets Wichita, St. Patrick's Parish, the Kansas Air National Guard and two dozen other organizations.

It started at North High School and followed a nearly 2-mile route through neighborhoods north of the school before ending at the former Dillons store at 13th and Waco.

Police Sgt. Jose Salcido, one of the organizers, praised the way the community came together to support the event.

"This is well beyond our expectations," he said.

Marchers included members of the faith community, local political leaders such as Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, representatives of Vietnamese, Hispanic and African-American organizations, and members school and scouting organizations.

Wichita State University basketball players also joined the march, towering over the crowd.

"They asked us to support it, so that's all we're doing, coming out to show support," said Shocker junior J.T. Durley.

Another marcher, Sybil Strum, carried a sign saying "Stop the Violence, Start the Caring."

Gang members were among her students when she taught at Lawrence Elementary, she said. She used to order them to remove their gang bandannas and show respect or they couldn't be in her class, she said.

They obeyed, and some left the gangs and became productive members of the community, Strum said.

"We want to let the gang people know we have a right to go wherever we want, and we'd appreciate if they'd stop the hating and start the caring," she said.

The event offered a strong show of unity, said marcher Sherdeill Breathett Sr.

"It's exciting to see all the different ethnic groups that are being represented, that have the same passion to strengthen our community," he said.

"We can lay aside any difference we might have and stand on this platform, and say that gang violence is a detriment to our community," he said.

Marcher Carl Ligon, wore a sign asking how much gang activity costs the community.

It costs families, lives, livelihoods, taxpayers and more, he said.

"It costs everything. And people need to weigh the costs, especially the gang members themselves," Ligon said.