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Posted on March 10, 2010

Operation Richmond Aims to Proclaim Peace

By Cassandra Juniel, Spotlight editor

RICHMOND — Thousands of city residents joined together at the Civic Center here Saturday to “Proclaim God’s Peace Over Our City,” including people of all ages, and different cultures and walks of life.

Key events for the day included 210 prayer circles at various intersections throughout the city, a march from Civic Center to the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ and a rally.

“Although we had hoped that the number of participants would be larger, we feel the day was a huge success,” volunteer Morris LeGrande said. “We did achieve what we wanted to achieve, which was the citizens and the faith-based community coming together in unity.”

Operation Richmond, a conglomerate of more than 80 churches around the Bay Area, organized the events and launched a massive outreach program combating crime and taking action. The efforts were started in reaction to the shooting of two youths inside Richmond’s New Gethsemane church during service time.

Three males in black hooded sweatshirts entered the church on Feb. 14, walked outside and immediately came back in and shot two brothers in front of approximately 100 parishioners, Richmond police officials said.

The victims survived their gunshot wounds and there have been no arrests in the case.

Mike Bigbee, a member of the church, was inside of the church at the time of the shooting.

“I’m involved in a ministry that gives away brown bags of food every Wednesday. I was putting away food and all of a sudden when I came out, I saw two guys walking in and then leaving out of the church,” Bigbee said. “Then, one came back and started shooting.”

After police officials concluded their investigation that afternoon, the church continued with their service.

The occurrence of the shooting prompted action, which began the outreach efforts as directed by the visionary of the project, Bishop J.W. Macklin, who is the presiding bishop over the Church of God In Christ, Inc. and pastor of Glad Tidings Church in Hayward.

“It was an unfortunate incident that occurred at New Gethsemane. I am the bishop within this denomination responsible for this church. I saw the church, as well as the city ready to move to action against such crimes,” Macklin said.

“Everything was in place. We are continuing to carry out the vision,” he said.

The outreach efforts began on Feb. 28 with more than 1,000 individuals hanging “Never Again” banners on houses of worship and reaching out by visiting 10,000 homes where literature and Bibles were distributed and prayer was offered, Macklin said.

Various vendors were on hand Saturday, in support of the efforts, advertising and distributing material that related to helping young adults physically, mentally and spiritually.

One such vendor represented the Child Care Council.

“We have to start with the kids when they are young so that they will have a good head on them. This all affects their behavior when they grow up,” referral counselor Amy Cheng said.

Representatives were also on hand from Contra Costa College, highlighting education as a necessary factor for the youth.

“The more education to kids, the less crime and the more employment. I think they go hand-in-hand,” Scholarship and Outreach Coordinator Jimmy Cox said.

Highlights of the day included the marching of more than 2,500 individuals from Civic Center to New Gethsemane Church, located at 21st and Roosevelt Street.

Following the police officials who cleared the roads for the marchers were Macklin, the pastor of the church, clergymen and supporters.

“I am happy about what God is doing. People are so excited about what is going on,” New Gethsemane Pastor Archie Levias said.

Right before the march, city officials and Macklin addressed attendees and provided direction for the marchers.

“We’re on a journey to peace,” Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said. “We are working to reduce violence in many ways, but it is important for many to spread the message of peace.” [emphasis added]

Once everyone arrived at the church, a “human-hand chain” was formed by everyone holding hands, standing outward, as though to exemplify “we won’t leave you out.”

The chain encircled the church, as well as three blocks.

Prayer was spoken for Richmond neighborhoods, residents and general peace in the city.

“It’s all peaceful, and this march was incredibly positive. This is what it is going to take to bring peace back to Richmond,” Chief of Police Chris Magnus said. “People of all walks of life are all here, and I’m impressed with what I see.”

One marcher made an extraordinary effort to participate.

“I’m proud to march today. I was shot at the age of 16 years near my spine, was once in a wheelchair and am now on these partial crutches,” supporter Darron Knight said. “God has turned my life around from being with the gang bangers.”

The day concluded with the rally at Civic Center with singers, testimonies and a brief message from Rev. Kevin Hall of St. John Baptist Church of Richmond.

“Christ is the answer,” Hall said. “There is a great need for parents to teach children to respect God, respect the church, respect their elders and authority and lastly, themselves.”

Contact Cassandra Juniel at


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