City wearing orange for gun violence awareness

Minneapolis leaders are joining cities around the country in wearing orange Thursday for National Gun Violence Awareness/Orange Walk Day.

The day honors Hadiya Pendleton, who would have celebrated her 19th birthday June 2. While a 15-year-old high school student from the south side of Chicago, she marched in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade Jan. 21, 2013. One week later, she was shot and killed in Chicago.

A group of her friends decided to wear orange as a way to remember her — also the color hunters wear to protect themselves in the woods.

The I-35W Bridge will be lit orange Thursday night. Protect Minnesota, a gun violence prevention organization, is gathering at Lake Calhoun’s marina at 6 p.m. to handout “wear orange” stickers and balloons and then heading to Wild Roast Café, 65 Main St. SE, for a walk to the Stone Arch Bridge.

“Gun violence has no place in Minneapolis or in any other city,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges, who recently outlined the city’s efforts to tackle gun violence in a blog post. “Sensible, smart gun policies can prevent gun violence. I call on every Minneapolitan to join me and commit to keeping guns out of the wrong hands and encouraging those who legally own firearms to be responsible and safe.”

Minneapolis has experienced a surge in gun violence this year.

As of May 30, there have been 126 shooting victims in the city — up 75 percent from the same period a year ago, according to Minneapolis police crime statistics.

Birdell Beeks, a grandmother, was recently killed by a stray bullet in North Minneapolis on May 26. She was sitting in a minivan with her granddaughter when she got caught in the crossfire.

The next day, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said additional police resources are headed to the 4th Precinct.

“As we continue to work aggressively to address our increase in gun violence, one of my greatest concerns has been realized; people with no regard for the lives of those in our community taking the life of an innocent bystander,” she said. “This is intolerable and unacceptable. The fact that our officers made arrests immediately and have been following up on information from those arrests gives me some comfort that justice will be served, but it cannot replace a life that should have never been lost.”

She said the police department is “aggressively” targeting “gang members” and “cliques” known for violence. Twelve new officers will join the 4th Precinct on June 12.

Harteau said she has also created a Community Support Team (CST) of community leaders to help police address the violence.

The Journals published an in-depth report, “Under Fire,” earlier this year examining the problem of gun violence in Minneapolis.