IF YOU GO
Where: Kingdom Center, 740 M.L. King Blvd.
When: 3 p.m. today
Why: To stop the violence in Chattanooga
Gang members are stepping into the anti-violence dialogue in Chattanooga today - days after three people were killed and seven were injured by a spate of gun violence throughout the city.
Local gang members have planned a stop-the-violence brainstorming session today at Olivet Baptist Church's Kingdom Center and say anyone who wants to offer ideas on how to stop violence in Chattanooga is welcome to attend.
Pastor Kevin Adams said several community members took the initiative and approached him about hosting a meeting. He offered the center as a venue after hearing what they had to say.
"They came to me as guys who are familiar with the gangs and from their perspective they want to see a stop to the killing and I thought that was admirable," Adams said. "For these guys to rise up as citizens and take leadership and say it has to stop, that was heavy for me."
Norman Williams, who is promoting the meeting, said he wants to have a real discussion about the city's violence and what can be done.
Williams said he thinks the first step needs to center on jobs. If the city can help people with criminal records find decent jobs and hold on to them, Williams believes the violence between gangs can end.
"Killing is not going to stop - it's just not, not ever," Williams said.
"But the gang killings can cease. They can get broken down, no problem. We can make that happen."
Williams and other gang members who hope to stop the shootings have adopted a motto, they said: PUSH. It stands for "provide us some help" and "pray until something happens."
"Y'all push, we push, and then we're all pushing together," said one gang member who asked to remain anonymous.
The meeting comes on the heels of a violent week and in the midst of the city's Violence Reduction Initiative, which specifically targets gun violence among gang and group members.
"We just want a solution to the problem," said Taiwan Greathouse, another event organizer. "We're tired of losing people."
Organizers invited Mayor Andy Berke to the meeting, although Berke's office said he was not planning to attend as of Wednesday evening.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or firstname.lastname@example.org with tips or story ideas.