ANTIOCH -- Armed with signs and pamphlets calling for peace, a group of faith-filled residents took some small steps Sunday toward stopping violence in the community.
About 60 people, most wearing matching T-shirts, participated in Sunday night's Community Night Walk, a monthly event started four months ago by nearly a dozen faith groups from Antioch and Pittsburg.
After gathering for a prayer in front of International Christian Ministry on G and Madill streets as the sun started to set, the walkers made their way along William Reed Drive and down L Street, which borders the crime-plagued Sycamore Drive neighborhood.
"There has been a lot of trauma in this region. Our goal is to gather as people of faith and try to encourage others toward a peaceful existence," said Will McGarvey, pastor of Pittsburg's Community Presbyterian Church.
Church leaders pointed to the most recent spate of youth violence in East Contra Costa County, Friday's fatal shooting of an 18-year-old Brentwood man at Pittsburg's Buchanan Park.
"It just weighs heavy on my heart," said The Rev. Tuma Johnson Sr. of International Christian Ministry. "We're not going to keep silent. We need to reclaim our streets and share that message of love that we belong to each other."
The Rev. Robert Rien of St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church mentioned he was walking for CHP officer Kenyon Youngstrom, who was shot and killed on-duty at a traffic stop on Interstate
Along with trying to address the increase in violent crime in East Contra Costa County, several Antioch church buildings and congregation members have been victims of theft in the recent year, said Teresa Flores, an organizer with Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, or CCISCO.
"They are experiencing it firsthand," she said.
The mile-long walk drew some approving honks from traffic on L, as a couple carfuls yelled approving messages of gratitude.
"I think it's great. I don't like the violence either, so I'm glad they are out trying to stop it," said Kathie Oceanna, who was putting out trash cans on William Reed as the group paraded by and handed her a filer.
A couple of onlookers outside an apartment complex on L were taken aback by the line of white-clad walkers.
The long-term goal is to expand the outreach to the community and create a program similar to Richmond's weekly Project Ceasefire walks, Flores said.
Lara Roliz, a parishioner at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, participated in the walk for the first time because she is "just tired of hearing about all the violence" in Antioch.
"It wasn't like this when I was growing up," she said. "You just realize that there are families here that are affected by all this. We need to wake up and act."
Her boyfriend, Mercer Lewis, agreed:
"You hear about shootings at like (Knoll Park and near Deer Valley High) and you're just like 'wow,' and it makes you feel angry too. This is a positive way to stand up against it."
Sue Holland, a 13-year Oakley resident and Antioch Church Family member, said she hoped Sunday's outreach at least touched a couple people.
"Maybe there's more of a way to stop and talk to people and do some missionary work," she said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
The Night Walks are held the second Sunday of each month at 7 p.m. For more information, call Teresa Flores of the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization at 925-759-7402.