Group calls for peace after spike in violence in Tampa Bay area

Kids take part in a rally for peace in Tampa on Friday night

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – On Friday night a group led by the New Black Panther Party called for an end to violence after a number of shootings and killings in the Tampa Bay area.

Those calling for peace took to the streets to say enough is enough.

Violence has plagued Tampa and St. Petersburg, where a spike in unsolved murders has people saying the violence has gotten way out of control.

“Stop the violence, stop the violence,” a handful of children said on the corner of North 15th Street in Tampa.

Along with those children, adults participated, trying to teach the next generation that violence doesn’t have to be a way of life. “When I go home every night looking for my nephew to be sitting on my damn porch, so I can’t see him no more,” Robert Sherman said.

Sherman couldn’t help but get emotional in the crowd as he mourned the loss of his nephew, Christopher Houston. He was one of two men killed at Club Rayne in Tampa last month.

“When I looked down and see my nephew on the ground, I looked down and passed out on him,” Sherman said.

“I wish I could be at home where he’s at,” Sherman said. He said he’ll never get over the loss of his nephew – but will continue to protect his other nephew, who stood next to him Friday night.

Now more than ever, Sherman takes to the streets along with others from the New Black Panther Party.

Vivian Heyward is a familiar face on these streets in Tampa. She’s been a community activist for nearly two decades.

“Just where the bullet hit her, it hit me in the stomach as well,” Heyward said as she expressed her shock after Thursday’s drive-by shooting in St. Petersburg. A 3-year-old girl was caught in the crossfire.

“Emotionally, it still tears at my heart every time I hear a story about any child,” Heyward said.

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