Activist offers ‘caravan of love’ as gun cure
A community activist has asked the national security ministry to give his anti-violence drive a chance to take part in the fight against gang crime.
Cleveland Simmons said his “caravan of love, peace and healing”, a musical stage designed to visit troubled areas, could help combat gun crime.
He added that Government attempts to stamp out crime in hotspot neighbourhoods had failed because it is not in touch with the people.
Mr Simmons said: “I'm living the community's needs and wants. I walk there every day. I'm hearing what they don't like.”
He was speaking last Monday, only hours after Paul Johnson, 33, was shot dead outside his home on Rambling Lane in Pembroke.
Mr Simmons said the caravan would also allow members of the public in affected areas to talk about their experiences and a variety of organisations would be involved.
Dennis Bean, who is working with Mr Simmons on the caravan project, added that “the idea is to go in there whether there is unrest or otherwise. We talk to the kids about a better direction. We try to put out the fire before it starts”.
Mr Simmons said they hoped to get the go-ahead from Pastor Leroy Bean, the Government's Gang Violence Reduction Co-ordinator.
He added: “We are waiting for Pastor Leroy Bean so we can take the caravan into the community and start to address some of the concerns of the community.”
Mr Simmons said: “If he has a plan, he should share it with people like ourselves so that we all become one body in addressing something that we are all concerned about.”
Mr Simmons added that businesses in the Pembroke area were prepared to back the caravan, but wanted the Government to take the lead.
He said: “We know the caravan is the solution. People in the hotspots are waiting for it.”
Mr Simmons added that shootings were often blamed on gangs, which was not always the case.
He said: “They all blame it on gangs, but not all of it is based on the same thing. There have been different situations.”
Mr Simmons warned: “There will be more shootings unless we come together in unity and use what we got to get what we need.”
Mr Bean added that Bermuda faced a crisis and action, including the use of the caravan, should be taken to tackle it.
He said: “There are people who don't think Bermuda is in crisis, they just shrug it off saying that the Bible or scriptures predicted it.
“They don't really take it seriously. They just lay back and let it happen.”
Mr Bean added: “If we all sit back and just allow it to happen, then it is going to escalate.
He claimed that several organisations had been given funds to help in trouble spots, but they had been unable to make an impact because they do not understand the needs of the people.
Mr Bean said: “They are not able to go in there like we are able to because we have actually grown with the problem.
“We were at one point ourselves a part of the problem. We do have our hands-on in terms of solutions”
Mr Simmons, who walked through sections of Pembroke on Tuesday, said the area has been traumatised by Mr Johnson's murder.
He added: “Everybody knows everybody. Everyone is traumatised.”
One man who was in the area when Mr Johnson was shot in the early hours of Monday said he now had difficulty sleeping.
He added: “I haven't slept for two days now. My head is a mess.”