By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent
New Journal and Guide
PORTSMOUTH—Barry Randall, pastor of All People Cultural Life Church, led a protest rally against violence in Portsmouth on Tuesday (Dec 30). The demonstration was held on the steps of Portsmouth City Hall and featured pleas for community action from family members of victims slain on Portsmouth streets, and calls for Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth I. Wright to either “Lead or Leave.”
Demonstrators criticized the mayor for not speaking out publicly on the issue of increasing homicides in the city and for not reaching out to families in mourning. In 2014, Portsmouth had 11 homicides. This number skyrocketed to 26 in 2015.
Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson provided a tent for demonstrators who wanted their voices heard regardless of the inclement weather. A candlelight vigil was held at the end of the protest rally.
The following morning, Portsmouth City Council and all elected and appointed city officials held a news conference in council chambers. Mayor Kenneth Wright said that city leaders were launching a new multitiered campaign to reverse crime and violence in the city.
Wright said, “Our theme for this press conference is simple-Violence and Crime Reversal Through Community Engagement. The reversal of crime and violence in our city can only happen when all of our stakeholders recognize the significance of becoming engaged in a collective process and becoming a community difference-maker.
“It will take thousands of people working on this campaign of togetherness and engagement, not just municipal government, not just schools and teachers, not just pastors and service providers but all of us working together.