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Miami Residents Go On Hunger Strike To Protest Gun Violence


Gun violence gets an awful lot of attention when there are mass shootings, but there is also a steady drip of fatal shootings in disadvantaged communities. In Miami's Liberty City neighborhood, a hunger strike has been going on for the last two weeks to highlight the terrible toll of gun crime in that historically black neighborhood. My colleague Lulu Garcia-Navarro of Weekend Edition Sunday was just in Miami and has this story.

ANTHONY BLACKMAN: Man, I'll look at y'all. I see y'all as young kings and young queens.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Anthony Blackman is sitting in the hot South Florida sun addressing a group of students in what was once an empty lot on a busy main road in Liberty City but is now a hive of activity. He's urging the students to not get involved with guns. He tells them the sacrifice he's making is for them.

BLACKMAN: I don't know if y'all know people die in hunger strikes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Blackman is taking part in the protest. And behind him is a huge poster with the words operation hunger strike, the hunger nine boycotting the killings. Also taking part is Albert Campbell, who was born and raised here in Liberty City.

ALBERT CAMPBELL: I've done 22 years and three months in federal prison for selling drugs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Campbell was pardoned by former President Barack Obama. And he vowed to dedicate his life to his community. The men all belong to a group called The Circle Of Brotherhood. They are living and sleeping in a makeshift tent where they get checked on by volunteer medics every day. They've only been drinking water. And the hunger strike has taken its toll on them. The hunger nine decided to act after going to a candlelight vigil where mothers of those killed by gun violence in this community gathered. And they felt frustrated they said.

CAMPBELL: We done done the candlelight vigils. We done put teddy bears on the ground. We done poured out a little liquor. We done did all those things. What is it that we could do so we can kind of stop the pain of some mothers that eventually may experience what we're listening to on that day?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The men say the aim is to increase awareness and prompt conversation. Police officers have stopped by. Miami's mayor has been here and so have some parents of the victims of the Parkland shooting. But they're mostly just talking to their community.

CAMPBELL: Because there might be somebody that have heard our message, some parent to say, you know what? I'm going to tighten up on my child. I'm going to stop let them hang around with people that's going to send them to the prison or the graveyard.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Who do we serve?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our community.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Who do we serve?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our community.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Clap it up if you're still here.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: The students who were here when I arrived are just about to leave. Samantha Quarterman is leading the school group. And she tells me about the reality her students know all too well.

SAMANTHA QUARTERMAN: Less than a month and a half ago, three of our kids' in our program mother got badly murdered on her front porch. The kids still go to our program right now. And if one person dies in a family, it affects the whole family, not just the child. It affects everybody. So it's a lot. It's a lot of stuff that's going on in this community that people really just don't care about.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That violence, like this hunger strike, is usually only covered by the local media. I stumbled on the protest because I was reporting on another story in the area. As we're talking, Quarterman tears up.

QUARTERMAN: When it - you know, when they talk about black lives matter - in our community, it really doesn't. It's just another person dying, and nobody cares. So that's why these brothers are doing this because our lives matter as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Miami, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.