Victims of gun violence remembered at Forsyth Park

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:36 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Local organizations are remembering the lives of gun violence victims and wearing the color orange in their honor. On Friday, people around the country are doing the same for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Organizers are really wanting to send a message to people who walk through one of Savannah’s busiest landmarks of just how many people are losing their lives to gun violence this year.

Chatham Young Democrats and Savannah’s Moms Demand Action chapter will be writing nearly 270 names on the pavement in Forsyth. All are victims of mass shootings in 2023 this year.

Several of the volunteers have lost children or family of their own in Chatham County and they’ll be writing their names as well.

Savannah Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan’s son, Lawrence Bryan, is one of those victims whose name will be written.

“People are getting shot in Walmart, at school, in churches. We want people to know that we honor the dead and it’s a privilege to be able to call their names and let people know that they’re basically martyrs and until we have better gun laws, the carnage is going to continue,” Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan said.

Every year on the first Friday in June, they wear orange to remember Hidaya who was a teenager when she was shot and killed on a Chicago playground. Orange was chosen because it represents the colors hunters wear for their safety.

Gun violence in Savannah so far in 2023

But what does gun violence look like in Savannah this year?

“One homicide this year. Which is a reduction of 95 percent,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said in a news conference earlier in the week.

That’s compared to 16 homicides at this time last year and 12 this time in 2021.

According to the Savannah Police Department’s most recent crime data, there have been 157 aggravated assaults as of May 27, 2023. On the same day last year, there had been 153 aggravated assault crimes and 129 in 2021.

Still, Mayor Johnson is grateful the number of people shot and killed is at a record low.

“We realized that the police cannot do this alone. We have an Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. We’re engaged with cure violence. We’re working with big mamas and grandmamas. We’re working with daddies and uncles. We’re working with mentors,” Mayor Johnson said.

Savannah Police Chief Lenny Gunther sent WTOC a statement saying, “Over the last year our officers have been continuously participating in direct engagement with community members in many events and settings as we work to transition being a more relationship-based department...I am hopeful the trend will continue as a result of our ongoing efforts.”

George Penniman, with Young Democrats of Chatham County says he hopes the low number of deaths continue in Savannah.

“I think that’s a good trend that we’re on and hopefully it stays that way and we can identify the specific measures that are working and help tell other counties,” Penniman said.

The name of the young girl killed in Savannah will also be written. Organizers encourage people to come to Forsyth Park throughout the weekend and write down names of victims they know who have been shot and killed and also honor those whose names are already here.