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Activists host motorcycle rally to stop gun violence on Saturday

Organizers Rochelle Russell and Zanders "Lord Sire" Hych planned the event because change won't happen if no one tries, they said.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Local activists hosted a motorcycle rally to stop gun violence because they're tired of the violence, organizers said.

Organizers Rochelle Russell and Zanders "Lord Sire" Hych planned the event because change won't happen if no one tries, they said.

The pair beamed with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness because three months of hard work came to fruition when the rally started at 11:30 a.m.

"It's something that needs to get started to speak about, to try and find a remedy," Hych said. "Especially when it comes to the youth, we need to understand, why, how and what can be done to prevent further tragedies from happening through gun violence."

Toledo has had 28 homicides due to shootings in 2022.

"I'm hearing gunshots on a regular basis," Russell said. "I had a neighbor that had to be tossed over a wall because gunshots were happening and nobody knew where they were coming from. This senseless gun violence has to stop."

Russell said the recent killing of her 18-year-old nephew, Phillip Cunningham III, prompted the rally's planning. Cunningham died on April 25 after being shot in the head in north Toledo.

RELATED: 18-year-old found fatally shot in the head at north Toledo rental property; no suspects in custody

"He's what pushed me to do this," she said. "It's long overdue."

Russell is also the founder of the Ladybug Society, a mentoring group for teen girls, which helped host the event.

Hych and Russell are part of a team working to make sure the purpose of Saturday's rally comes across clear: change is needed to stop gun violence.

"Toledo is becoming a very beautiful place to look at," Russell said. "But with all the violence and the gun crimes that's going on, we're missing all the beauty around it."

The ride started at Sleepy Hollow Park, went east on Dorr Street and ended about four miles away at the Frederick Douglas Community Center. Numerous speakers, local businesses and vendors, a collection of food for the Northwest Ohio Food Bank and organizations like Good Grief, Zepf Center, and Oak Street Health were all in attendance.

Poet and community activist Jodie Summers said the event brings awareness to the issue of gun violence.

"There are people that care about their communities," she said. "It shows that there are people that want something done, they just don't know who to go to. And to bring awareness and let people know that somebody cares. Somebody is trying and we're not just sponsored to do this." 

Toledo had 62 shooting homicides in 2021. There were also two people shot and killed by the Toledo Police Department in 2021.

RELATED: Man handcuffed, hospitalized on scene of east Toledo standoff Saturday afternoon

RELATED: 4 killed in shooting near Dayton; man called 'armed and dangerous' sought

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