Local citizens march against gun violence

Heavily overcast skies and the threat of rain didn't deter local citizens from showing their concern about the increase in gun violence in the community.

Participants in the first-ever March Against Gun Violence joined several officers from the Columbus Police Department at the track at Lakebottom Park Saturday morning for the event.

Lieutenant Mark Starling of the Columbus Police Department, a gun violence survivor, joined Alicia Tatum in lighting a candle to begin the event. Starling was shot three times while responding to a call at Peachtree Mall in May of 2005.

"Gun violence is an epidemic that is taking over our country," said Starling, adding that community events such as today's are important. He noted that of the roughly 678 aggravated assaults in Columbus in 2007, more than 60 percent involved guns.

The event was started by the Versatile Dance Team, a student-led dance team at Columbus State University, Tamela Thompson, the team's captain, said the team wanted to do philanthropic events in addition to their performances. She hopes to make this an annual event.

"This brings awareness to actual victims and survivors of gun violence in our community," said Alicia Tatum, an assistant professor at CSU and the team's advisor.

Proceeds from the event, which also featured a jewelry sale, speakers, a drumline and artwork from a second grade class at Rigdon Road Elementary School, go to benefit the Columbus Community Center.