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Sun Oct 30 2011 Community Gathers to Honor Victims and Urge Stop to Violence
18th Annual Peace & Unity March in Watsonville On October 29, the 18th Annual Peace & Unity March was held in Watsonville. The march was organized to honor victims of gang-related violence in Watsonville and to push for an end to the violence in the community. Sandino Gómez, historian for the Watsonville Brown Berets, recounted how the march began in 1994 to honor Jessica and Jorge Cortéz, 16 and 9 years old, who were gunned down because they had witnessed a gang–related crime. Gómez emphasized that “violence is not the solution” and that everyone present “must be part of the solution”. A representative of the mothers of victims, Rose de Ramirez, who lost her son to gang-related violence sixteen years ago, emphasized, “We need support from the community to stop violence”.

The march is part of multiple efforts on the part of the Watsonville Brown Berets and other community groups to stop gang-related violence in the Watsonville area. According to Brown Beret Diego Espinoza, one challenge is that public after-school programs have been cut and there are limited spaces for youth to express themselves besides getting involved in gangs. The Brown Berets seek to fill this gap by providing an open space at the Bike Shack in Watsonville for youth to participate in workshops on Youth & Power, art and music, indigenous and Latino culture, and to organize around important community issues, such as the struggle to ban the use of methyl iodide on crops in California.

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