Community activists, local politicians and devastated Tacoma residents shouted chants of “Whose Street? Our street! and “Stop the Violence!” as they walked down a car-free hilltop street Thursday night in support of the family of Iyana Ussery, a 14-year-old Tacoma man who was murdered on Wednesday.
Tacoma Cease Fire, a grassroots organization that promotes nonviolence throughout the city, was prompted to organize the peace march after Ussery was shot and killed in a car full of teenagers. During the march, hundreds of people followed a red Lincoln SUV and a Ram pickup truck from the 1900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where the shooting took place, down South 19th Street and out to the fields grassy area of Stanley Elementary School.
During this half mile, walkers wrapped their arms around family members and strangers who were visibly overwhelmed with emotions. Christine Young, who works as a substitute for Tacoma Public Schools and lives a few houses from the intersection of the shootings, reflected on fears for her own family as she walked behind the vehicles.
“I had trouble sleeping last night and today I just cried,” she told The News Tribune. “That could have been my daughter.”
Once on school grounds, Tacoma Cease Fire members stood in front of a raised platform and lamented the type of violence that killed Ussery. Candace Wesley, the founder of Tacoma Cease Fire, accused the parents in the crowd of not doing enough for their children.
“As adults, we let that population down,” Wesley told the audience. “We gravitated to this language of, ‘I don’t need anybody not telling my kids.’ This is the problem.”
Members of Ussery’s family, including his mother, Kelsey Ussery, joined the members of Tacoma Cease Fire on stage but left before the speeches were over. Shawn Chandler, one of Ussery’s cousins, told the News Tribune his family is still trying to process his cousin’s murder.
“It should never have happened,” Chandler said. “We need programs right now for kids that age.”
Delayah Sins, another cousin of Ussery, told the News Tribune she was the driver of the car that was shot. Once she heard the bullets, she remembered that she left as fast as she could.
“It was scary,” said Sins, 15. “We almost hit other cars trying to get away from there. It was just terrifying.
As the event unfolded, the Tacoma Police Department announced that officers had arrested two suspects connected to Ussery’s murder. According to a press release, two 17-year-olds have been arrested for alleged murder.
Many city leaders joined the marchers on South 19th Street. Prior to the start of the event, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and Police Chief Avery Moore rushed from person to person the other, hugging attendees as voters shared their thoughts on the homicide. Although Woodards declined to be interviewed at the event, she issued a public statement on Wednesday and wrote that she was furious with the recent violence in the city.
This story was originally published July 8, 2022 7:32 a.m.