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Concerned Citizens March in Another Prayer Walk

LAWTON, OK._ Saturday was Lawton's fourth Stop the Violence Prayer Walk and like the ones before it only grew in size.

The first walk started back in November following an upward swing in violence.

Since then one has been held every month.

Pastors, community leaders, victims of violence and concerned citizens lined the streets near 22nd and Pollard screaming "stop the violence, increase the peace!"

Jimmy Schutte has been to nearly every walk.

He remembers his youth and the poor choices he made.

Now, he walks so today's youngsters will not make his same mistakes.

"We had clubs, and a club was nothing but a small gang. And my class in grade school, all the males in that class are almost gone...went to jail, died, drugs, everything," said Schutte.

Schutte was sent to a correctional facility for minors when he was only fifteen.

There he was ordered to attend Sunday School every day for a year.

He said that experience changed his outlook on life.

"Around my neck is the Ten Commandments on a gold change. And subconsciously, every once in a while when I think wrong, or do something wrong it gets tight," said Schutte.

Jeff Elbert said, like Schutte, he also comes from a dark past that he is not so proud of.

He said fortunately he managed to escape a gang-ridden life and is determined to be a force that encourages other kids to make the same choice he did.

"I want to try to save some of these children, man, that are born in these communities and grow up in these communities, not knowing right from wrong, gang-banging from just being a regular citizen. Being a regular civilian is hard enough," said Elbert.

He said troubled kids need to be taught that their choices of today will affect their choices of tomorrow.

"It's all about the next generation about how our world ends up," said Elbert.  

These walkers know first hand that for a lot of kids, a gang is source of family, community and brotherhood.

Their hope is that a new brotherhood can form in Lawton...one based on peace, faith and a positive lifestyle.

"Bringing the community together is our first priority. Yeah, we have our authorities and our police department and our council members, but it's going to take our community to build it up from within," said Elbert.

The next Stop the Violence event will be a rally scheduled for March 16th.

It will start with a walk down Sheridan and continue at the McMahon auditorium, where there will be a concert for the youth and guest speaker Jeff Elbert.

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