AUSTIN (KXAN) — Guns down in Givens Park — not only there — but throughout Austin.
That’s the message being sent by community advocates calling for an end to gun violence in Black communities.
This fight is personal.
Givens Park is home to culture, authenticity and gatherings, but it’s also where advocates spoke out on Sunday. They shined light on an issue that has impacted their community for far too long.
Tardrick Fowler, a community advocate fighting to end gun violence, said he lost his son to gun violence in 2020. If you ask him about gun violence in Givens Park, it strikes a nerve.
“He was killed in Austin, Texas,” Fowler said.
“Big Dre from 12th Street, he got killed two years ago,” Fowler said. “It crushed the city.”
Toward the park’s entrance, Fowler and other organizers invited the community out to draw attention to what’s happening.
“I’m tired of the Black on Black crime, the young man versus young man — kids shooting kids,” Gary Simples, another community advocate, said. “We’re hoping to start changing our youth.”
“It’s timeout for the guns,” he said.
Simples said he runs a car service for funerals.
“I have done numerous funerals for people who have been shot or killed here in Givens Park,” Simples said. “The number count is starting to go up.”
Austin Police Department stats show there have been 65 gun-related calls in the area since 2018 with neighbors saying some of those ended deadly.
Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon launched a new gun violence initiative in April because of an increase in serious violent gun crimes.
Advocates are also pushing for tech involvement to get youth away from guns.
“If you can show a kid how to make money or benefit off of a tablet or a video game, [I think] you can combat crime,” community advocate Spike Zee said.
There’s strength in unity. Fowler is driven to keep pushing for change with his son close to his heart.
“He would want me to take the torch and lead by example,” Fowler said.
APD’s new initiative targeting gun violence has led police to arrest 57 people on 158 different gun-related charges. Officers have also seized 108 illegal guns.
The program will continue until the end of August.