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INDIANAPOLIS — This Thanksgiving, when people come together to reflect on what they are thankful for, 244 spaces at the table will be empty.

As of the time of this report, 244 people have lost their lives to violence in Indianapolis. These people come from all walks of life, from those not yet born to those in the golden years of their lives.

“Next week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving after last year’s pandemic when we weren’t able to get together, someone was looking forward to seeing their son, their daughter, their grandchild,” said Aaron Williams, a council member for Boone County with deep ties to Indianapolis.

On Tuesday, clergy and community leaders gathered to share the message of “Peace in the Streets, Stop the Violence,” as Indianapolis teeters on the edge of breaking the homicide record for the second year in a row.

“We are in a pandemic in our city, and something has to change,” said Williams. “I commend the work of our deputy mayor, our law enforcement officials, everyone behind us. They’re trying, but when are we as a community going to say enough is enough?”

So far, of Indianapolis’ 244 people who died from homicides in 2021, 54% of the victims were Black males, more than all of the other demographics put together.

“This is not a Black thing, this is not a white thing,” said Williams. “This doesn’t matter. A precious life has been lost — one too many.”

Kendall R. Wyatt, president of Young Lions Action Network, said there need to be more conversations with young Black men to figure out what needs to happen in order to prevent violence from happening.

“It’s people who look like me who are committing these crimes,” said Wyatt. “My personal appeal to you is give your brother give your sister the opportunity to see their family at Thanksgiving next week.”

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department shows of the suspects arrested for homicides so far this year, more than half of the suspects are Black men. Of the 48 suspects, 43 were under 40 years old.

“It’s one thing for us to say ‘Peace in the Streets,’ said Brown. “It is one thing for us to tell them to put the guns down. But if we’re telling them that and that’s what they used to picking up, then they have to fill that place with something else, because there’s going to be a void.”

There are a lot of organizations that are trying to address the root of the violence in the city by taking a look at unemployment, young adult outreach, mental health and education. Della Brown with Ceasefire Indy said there needs to be outreach in the communities to help fill the gap that may lead to violence.

“So we need to get into these communities and talk to these people and have uncomfortable conversations with them so that we can be enablers of them, so that they can do the things that they’re supposed to do, so that we all can be okay,” explained Brown.

Until the violence ends in Indianapolis, our clergy and community leaders will continue to say, “Peace in the Streets, Stop the Violence.”