TACOMA – Community activists, local politicians and devastated Tacoma residents shouted chants of “Whose street? Our Street!” and “Stop the violence!” as they walked down a car-less Hilltop street Thursday evening to support the family of Iyana Ussery, a Tacoma 14-year-old who was murdered Wednesday.
Tacoma Cease Fire, a grassroots organization that promotes non-violence throughout the city, was prompted to organize the peace walk after Ussery was shot and killed in a car full of teenagers. At the walk, hundreds of people followed a red Lincoln SUV and Ram pickup truck from the 1900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where the shooting took place, down South 19 Street and to the grassy fields of Stanley Elementary School.
Over the course of that half-mile, walkers wrapped their arms around family members and strangers who were visibly overwhelmed by emotions. Christine Young, who works as a substitute teacher for Tacoma Public Schools and lives a few houses away from the shooting intersection, reflected on fears for her own family as she walked behind the vehicles.
“I had a hard time sleeping last night and today I’ve just been crying,” she told the News Tribune. “It could’ve been my daughter.”
Once at the school fields, Tacoma Cease Fire members stood in front of a raised platform and lamented the type of violence that killed Ussery. Candace Wesley, the founder of Tacoma Cease Fire, charged the parents in the crowd with not doing enough for their children.
“As adults, we have failed this population,” Wesley told the audience. “We have gravitated toward this language of ‘I don’t need nobody saying nothing to my kids.’ That’s the problem.”
Ussery’s family members, including her mother, Kelsey Ussery, joined Tacoma Cease Fire members on stage but left before the speeches ended. Shawn Chandler, one of Ussery’s cousins, told the News Tribune his family is still trying to process his cousin’s murder.
“This should have never happened,” Chandler said. “We need programs right now for the youth of that age.”
Delayah Sins, another cousin of Ussery, told the News Tribune that she was the driver of the car that was shot at. Once she heard the bullets, she remembered driving away as quickly as she could.
“It was scary,” said Sins, 15. “We almost hit other cars trying to get away from there. It was just terrifying.”
“Iyana was a good person. She was a good person, and she did not deserve this at all.”
As the event was taking place, the Tacoma Police Department announced that officers arrested two suspects related to Ussery’s murder. According to a news release, two 17-year-olds have been booked for suspected murder.
Many of the city’s leaders joined walkers down South 19 Street. Before the event started, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and police Chief Avery Moore scurried from one person to the next, hugging attendees as constituents shared thoughts with them about the homicide. Although Woodards declined to be interviewed at the event, she released a public statement Wednesday and wrote that she was furious about the recent violence in the city.
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