Monument proposed for local victims of violence

A monument is in the works to honor the lives of innocent people killed by violence in Augusta.

This year has been particularly violent, with 34 homicides to date. There were 27 homicides in 2009 and 23 in 2008. But those are just numbers.

Two local ministers want to erect a memorial wall as a visual reminder of the long-lasting effect of violence in the community.

"It's a call to accept the rules of society," said the Rev. Christopher Waters. "You can disagree without violence. There are better ways to resolve conflict."

Plans are up in the air, including an exact design and where to erect the monument. But some of the criteria have been determined, and a private donor has committed to funding much of the project.

The Rev. Larry Fryer said because the homicides have occurred around the city, the monument should be centrally located. He pictures a marble wall similar to those used to commemorate the lives of service members, paired perhaps with a fountain or a seating area for families to reflect.

He has contacted city leaders about the project and plans a presentation to commissioners soon. He expects the monument to be placed on public property.

Some of the deaths this year and in the past were connected to drug deals or the victims had long criminal histories. Fryer said the memorial is reserved for innocent victims who are not to blame for their deaths.

Waters recently held a "Stop the Violence" march with his congregation at Thankful Baptist Church, on the corner of Walker and Third streets. His church ordered paper fans with the names of 29 homicide victims on them, but by the time of the rally three more people had died.

Families will not move to this area if it has a reputation for violence and neither will new businesses, he said. That robs everyone of tax dollars, employment and other economic benefits, Waters said.

Fryer said the wall would send a message from the grave:

"Our lives were taken in vain. We don't need any more bloodshed."