In a show of solidarity against the gun violence that has reached record-breaking proportions in St. Petersburg this year, mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon marched side by side with community leaders and residents in the second Annual Stop the Violence Walk Friday.
The Stop the Violence Walk was created by Maress Scott after his son was murdered while riding his bicycle around his grandmother’s neighborhood in south St. Pete two years ago. Held on Sept. 17, the second anniversary of Marquis Scotts’ murder, around 75 people attended the march and candlelight vigil.
The walk came as city officials and residents are increasingly alarmed over the number of murders occurring in the city this year. St. Petersburg Police reported a double homicide the night previously, not far from where people would take to the streets to decry the violence. The deaths bring the 2021 homicide count to 26, and the city is on pace to record its most murders in two decades.
Maress Scott said that losing someone to gun violence inflicts intolerable pain on their family. He added that the feeling extends to both the families of the victims as well as the families of those that committed the crime, and are then lost to the prison system.
“That separation, it hurts,” said Scott. “That horror is indescribable, and mothers have been feeling this horror for quite some time.”
Scott said he is reminded of how his ancestors must have felt when their sons and daughters were snatched from their arms as they experienced the atrocities of slavery. He was also reminded of the parents that sent their children off “to fight for this great country,” only to have them return in a casket. “Instead of getting their child back, they got a flag,” said Scott.
Scott told the crowd that the morning after his son’s murder, he visited the spot where Marquis Scott took his last breaths – the same exact spot where he was now speaking. A group of Marquis Scott’s friends had already gathered there that day, and one of them approached Maress Scott with a blood-soaked leaf.
“He told me this was all that was left of him (Marquis),” said Scott. “His blood on this leaf. I was horrified. I shook, my voice failed me, and in my mind, all I could say was, ‘This is not a fair trade.'”
“They took my son and left me with a leaf.”
Scott said that as powerful as his anguish is, he still struggles to comfort his wife because the pain she is feeling is something he “can’t even identify with.” He said that all he can think about is how she carried their son for nine months, brought him to life, nurtured him, and then entrusted Scott to provide for and protect him.
“And I lost him,” said Scott.
Scott said the feelings of hopelessness are understandable, but his family decided to do something “powerful about it.” He said they decided to focus on forgiveness and love, not because they excuse what was done, “but we forgave them so that we could move on.”
On May 1, Scott wrote the Black St. Pete Pledge intending to plant a seed of personal accountability for the safety of the communities hit hardest by violence. In addition to speaking at various functions and events, Scott goes into neighborhoods with the pledge and seeks out people that are most likely to use violence as a means to solve their problems.
Scott called the reception to the pledge mind-blowing and said approximately 1,500 signatures have been received in just the first four months. Scott is also turning his attention to school-aged children, creating the 5 Keys to Ending Gun Violence Among Young People training program he hopes will soon be implemented into area schools.
“The reason we can smile, the reason we can walk, the reason we can all gather here today, is because of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Scott. “We have a hope and a future, and my help comes from the Lord – and yours does too.”
St. Pete averages about 20 homicides a year. As of Sept. 17, 26 people in the city have been murdered – with over three months left in the year.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story misidentified an attendee as Ken Welch.