With 23 homicides in Kansas City barely three months into the new year, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens picked an opportune time to visit and talk anti-violence initiatives.
Greitens provided a symbolic gesture to help combat violence by participating in a peace march Thursday at Metropolitan AME Zion Church, 2828 Prospect. He said he would work with city and state officials to help put policies in place to address violence.
Earlier in the day, Greitens met with Mayor Sly James to discuss public safety, among other policy initiatives.
Greitens said to combat violence — especially among youth — change must begin with quality education for children and employment opportunities.
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“But we also have to find a way to make sure at the end of the day that those kids know that they are loved,” he said.
The walk was preceded by a meeting between Greitens and a group of clergy and other community leaders. Anti-crime advocates Kendra Jackson and Natasha Flemons shared personal stories on how they have been affected by gun violence.
Jackson’s 18-year-old son, Asaan Williams, was shot and killed in March 2015.
Flemons’ 19-year-old son, Devin, was shot and killed in July of the same year.
Both called on clergy, residents and elected officials such as Greitens to take action to support policies that reduce gun violence and murder.
Greitens made a passionate promise to the women and others in attendance.
“We are going to turn the state, turn the city and turn these streets around,” Greitens said. “We are going to take them back.”
Greitens was filled in on what a local clergy member labeled an “unbearable” level of violence in Kansas City.
Police investigated 128 homicides in the city last year, the highest number since 2008.
“It is time for us to act,” said Rev. Kenneth McKoy, one of the event’s organizers. “The levels of violence in our communities have reached an unbearable level.”