Forty-two-year-old Cleastore Jefferson's life ended Tuesday on a Utica sidewalk. Utica Police found him on the 100 block of James Street, fighting to survive multiple gunshot wounds. While his family mourns, community advocates found themselves uttering a familiar refrain on Saturday, to an audience with one less member. But they won't stop until their message is heard.
"What we're letting the community know is we are not taking this laying down. And we are pleading, we are pleading with the people in the community, if you're thinking about shooting somebody, please don't do that. Find another alternative," said Patrick Johnson, co-organizer of the Black Families Matter rally at Kemble Park, in Utica.
The rally was a chance for community members and advocates to gather in a safe place, and make the the case for change. They were there to demand better from everyone...including themselves.
"It's going to be the people that make the neighborhood safer. Yes, law enforcement is necessary. But it's going to be the people. It's going to be the individuals that says I'm going to change," said Johnson.
Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon brought spring water, hand sanitizer and hope to the meeting.
"Our goal is to bring all the stakeholders together in this conversation so we can determine the best way to keep our community safe," said the Assemblywoman.
Johnson is looking for a change in attitude and beliefs. He holds events like Saturday's Black Families Matter rally in hopes of reaching the person who, in the future, might consider pulling a trigger. He wants that person to know there are better alternatives, and he and others are willing to support them and show them the way.
"The victim that was killed a few nights ago-he didn't deserve that. So we have to shift the attitude around what makes it so easy for people to kill."