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Ferguson protests increase motivation to spread peace in Utica

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- With turmoil erupting in Ferguson, local church leaders, community members and the Utica Police Department walked together in a march Wednesday evening to send a message of peace to the community.

"The worst time to try to fix something is in the heat of crisis. That's like doing it in the heat of panic. Let's prepare and that's what we've been doing so I'm excited about being in Utica today," said Hannah Burgess who founded Vision to Plant.

"We sing songs, Christian songs, hymnals, we clap, we interface with the community as we go and invite them to join us in the march because we're trying to reach the heart of the people," said Burgess.

The marches, meant to reduce violence in Utica, started earlier this summer. There have been four homicides in Utica this year and multiple shots fired incidents. But, now the violent protests in Ferguson sparked by the shooting death of an unarmed teenager are adding motivation to their mission.

"Things they needed to deal with way before this in Missouri so now what Utica is doing is deal with it now so we don't have to look to uprising because we're not going to let anything change the character of Utica. Differences, diversity, unity, peace and prayer," said Burgess.

Part of what we see in Ferguson is the ugliness that comes from distrust and a lack of communication between law enforcement and the community. Here at home, the Utica Police Department is marching to bridge that gap.

"It's getting better and growing as we hope it would. There's always that finish line you try to get across where there's total understanding. Maybe it's unattainable, I don't know, maybe for any community, but we're going for it," said Lt. Steve Hauck of the Utica Police Department.

The march ended at Sunset Ave where there was a block party to bring the community together for food, worship and fun.

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