On Saturday afternoon, when Coral Garner asked a group of young Minneapolis residents how the city could help reduce violence in their communities, one answer emerged as the most popular: Gun control.
"I think people have been emboldened" by watching teenagers march in the Twin Cities and across the nation, said Garner, director of public safety initiatives for the city. "It's great to see."
As part of a nationwide effort to reduce youth violence, the city of Minneapolis held a rally at north Minneapolis' Capri Theater geared toward empowering young people to counter brutality and gang activity. The event included several performances from young people, such as choreographed stepping from the faith-based group Step With Soul and Chinese dragon dancing, along with DJs and motivational speakers.
"It's my obligation to make sure our city realizes every bit of its potential," said Mayor Jacob Frey, whose speech opened the event. "And I'll tell you what, we're not going to realize that potential without you. You are critical to that success."
Frey invited attendees to come to his office with any ideas about how they could help, and walked around shaking hands afterward with many of the several dozen in attendance.
Ten years ago, coming off several years of rising violence among young people, Minneapolis launched a "blueprint" for addressing the problem of youth violence throughout the city with better outreach resources and smarter policing tactics. In 2015, more than 1,650 young people in the city — defined as 24 or younger — were victims of violent crimes, down from 2,718 in 2006, according to a 2016 city report.
But the purpose of Saturday's event was to look beyond the headline-grabbing incidents of street violence, said Lutunji Abram, CEO of Voices of Effective Change, which helped organize the event.
"They're not what they see in the media," said Abram. "They are not the stereotypes."
The weekend's programming will conclude Sunday with a basketball tournament held in north Minneapolis' Farview Park and a gathering at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Church organized by the Latino nonprofit CLUES.
"In Minneapolis, we believe that violence is a preventable issue," said Sasha Cotton, youth violence prevention coordinator for the city.