Squad cars with lights flashing blocked intersections throughout Lexington's East End on Saturday, but instead of signalling the investigation of crime, as they so often have in recent months, they signalled hope.
Streets were blocked to allow about 200 marchers, some with canes, to thread their way through the neighborhood surrounding Duncan Park. It was the first of four peace walks to honor the 11 victims of homicide in Lexington this year — including Antonio Franklin, 21, who was killed in the park in April — but also end the violence.
In a prayer, the Rev. John Short of Centennial Baptist Church in Harrodsburg said the march was "not something for show or form or fashion but sincerity of the heart."
"Please bless us in this march," Short said as the crowd stood with heads bowed. "We are asking to stop the violence."
Tracy Goodlett, Kentucky chapter president for Moms Demand Action, was under a tent offering free lemonade and encouraging people to sign up to become "gun sense" voters. Goodlett, who came to the march from Bullitt County, said Saturday's event was an ideal place to encourage people to help promote the cause of the non-profit group. That includes supporting elected officials who support preventing violence with measures such as background checks for gun purchases.
The marchers were a diverse group. There was an ample representation of uniformed officers from the Lexington fire department, police department and sheriff's office. Several dozen members of black motorcycle clubs roared into the park just at the 6 p.m. start time, then took to the streets, wearing black vests in the 90 degree heat.
Flyers for the march encouraged people who couldn't walk to turn on their porch lights in support or join as the group worked its way in a loop back to Duncan Park.
A few kids on bikes joined the procession about halfway through, but many in the neighborhood didn't seem to know what to make of the influx of walkers, many dressed in white T-shirts with blue lettering that read "We Care. Our Community. Our Future." The shirts were handed out at the beginning of the trek.
While marchers streamed back into the park, a teenager hollered in the direction of Mayor Jim Gray: "Hey, what is this?"
"It's a march," Gray said as he got into his car.
The dreadlocked teen, dressed in an oversize white T-shirt, sized up the group that stretched from sidewalk to sidewalk before heading in the opposite direction with another young man on a bike. "Dude, bro, look down the street," he said.