G.A.N.G.S. in Peace protests, Richland County votes to require application for funding
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Richland County Council voted Tuesday to make a gun control initiative go through the application process for funding after hearing community concerns.
The Getting A New Generation Started in Peace (G.A.N.G.S) Initiative requested the Richland County Council to approve funding to help the organization’s mission to curb youth gun violence in the community.
The organization said they’d protest the council before the meeting Tuesday,
“Instead of supporting this urgent proposal to maintain the peace in Richland County communities, councilmembers are opting to follow an antiquated “process” that may take months to finalize and implement.”
The proposed budget for the initiative is $200,000 to serve approximately 9,000 students in Richland County.
The vote happened during the July 19, 2022 County Council meeting. G.A.N.G.S. said in a release that it was protesting the delay in funding from the council and that community members will, “bombard County Council and voice their concerns about the “urgency of now” and the worthiness of programs like this Gang and Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.”
The council’s vote came after roughly 30 minutes of public testimony from members of the Richland County community urging the council to act to fund the organization. Council member Cheryl D. English said, “We applaud your efforts”
English explained that the money being requested by G.A.N.G.S. comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and has requirements on it before the council can disperse it, “These are federal dollars.”
English also explained that there are other potential organizations in the community deserving of the funds, which in part was her support for getting the organization to go through the normal application process,
“We want to be good stewards of these funds.”
The program comes after a recent string of youth gun violence in the Midlands. The recent violence includes over twenty shootings involving young people that have left multiple dead. The initiative includes former gang members from the Crips, Bloods, Piru, GD’s and Folk Nation members using their experiences to urge young people to let go of the guns.
The group, led by Bishop Eric Davis met with Midlands law enforcement agencies in June to find solutions. The program aims to provide community services such as:
- Summer Camps
- Midnight Basketball
- Boxing Retreats
- Fall Football Leagues
- Safety programs
Sheriff Leon Lott wrote a letter in support of the program, “This initiative is ground-breaking in that it brings various gangs together to create peace and less violence.”
- Former gang members become street ambassadors with a hope to end gun violence
- Group of local ‘street ambassadors’ applying influence to stop violence
- Midlands law enforcement leaders sit down with local street ambassadors to discuss ending gun violence
- ‘I was part of the problem, now I want to be part of the solution,’ G.A.N.G.S. hosts first Community Day
There were concerns from the council ahead of Tuesday’s vote, “This request is out of process.” The council also wrote, “All other non-profits had to go through a competitive process, and this is circumventing the competitive process.”
Other concerns presented before the meeting included multiple other organizations and causes in the Midlands, “...there is a process in place, so we do not do agreements for all these organizations. It is based on the application and whether they meet the requirements.”
However it also points out that G.A.N.G.S. , “They are facilitating an emergency situation.”
Project objectives include:
- Reduce gun carrying among adolescents in specific communities in Richland County.
- Reduce homicides caused by gang-related violence in target communities.
- Support immediate individual and community needs pre-incident of violence.
- Change the perception of participants regarding their life trajectories.
- Relocate participants daily, reducing exposure to risks associated with poverty.
- Introduce a “counter narrative” to combats the barrage of negative messages and images reinforced in their psyches daily.
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