Anti-violence rally held at high school


Most students hanging out Thursday afternoon at an anti-violence rally outside Mojave High School found little solace in the arrest of Nicco Tatum, the teen police say opened fire at a school bus stop Tuesday.

One suspect was still at large, and, according to sophomore Jocelyne Gonzalez, 15, "either way, people are still gonna bring straps (guns) to school."

As pastors bellowed their anti-violence message from a stage, kids ate hot dogs and reflected on the days since four Mojave students and two others were shot at a bus stop near Alexander and Walnut roads.

Mojave junior Damion Brown, 16, who was among the 200 students at the Operation Lasting Peace and Safe Village Coalition rally, said that to stop violence, "you got to change the way people think."

"How you gonna do that?" he asked.

Changing the way people think is the objective of Safe Village, a coalition of city officials, law enforcement and faith-based community leaders who respond to incidents of violence around the valley.

The group normally operates in West Las Vegas, but the Rev. Troy Martinez said the gathering at the North Las Vegas school was necessary.

"We have to send the message that this type of thing should not be happening," said Martinez, a pastor at the East Las Vegas Christian Center who spoke at Thursday's rally. One way to send that message is to talk openly about violence, he added.

Shawntina Fredericks, a 16-year-old junior, said the rally and media attention at the school during the past three days has prompted discussion, and that's a good thing.

"With everyone asking us questions, we're forced to think about it and how to stop it," she said. "It helps."

Hispanic and black students at the school frequently fight, Gonzalez said.

"They talk stuff to each other, but they don't know how to handle it in the right way," the sophomore said.

Mojave, which had about 2,300 students last year, is 35 percent Hispanic, 33 percent black and 24 percent white, according to the Clark County School District.

An open discussion is exactly what kids need, said Stephanie Pedraza, a 17-year-old senior. If students can discuss what happened with adults and hear from adults who dealt with violence when they were teens, "we might be able to solve their problems with each other," she said.

Charity Varnado, the Mojave principal, said having an outside group come to the school is a way to help students deal positively with the shooting.

Varnado said Tuesday's shooting was a wake-up call for her. "We don't do a good job helping kids to cope with these issues, and that's a problem," she said.

In classrooms at the school, discussion of Tuesday's shooting has been limited, she said.

"The teachers have been informed that they are to provide active listening skills. ... If the students have something to say that is positive that's fine, but to elaborate ... is unacceptable," Varnado said.

Varnado worried that if classroom discussions about the incident got too detailed, more rumors would spread and more kids would be in danger.

After the rally, the Rev. Willie Cherry, pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, noted how kids were standing in mixed racial groups. "It's like a melting pot out here; that's good. It shows they are coming together. It's solidarity," he said.

Miguel, a 16-year-old junior who didn't want his last name used, said he fears there will be retaliation for the shooting. But attending the rally could ease the anger some students have felt, he said.

"In a way, this brings more peace" he said.

Contact reporter Beth Walton at Bewalton@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0279.

 

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