Cleveland activist demanding change after weekend violence, says 'death is the norm for kids'

Cleveland activist stresses need for 'real change' following wave of violence

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - In order to change the persistent violence in certain parts of Cleveland, one activist told Cleveland 19 real, tangible changes like increased street lighting and more after school programs need to be implemented.

Gregory Terrell, better known as Tonto, freely told Cleveland 19 that he served time both as a juvenile, and as an adult. He said in the decades he's been out, he's dedicated his life to trying to improve his community.

He said he knows kids in the community who have post-traumatic stress disorder, and don't even pay attention to gunshots anymore.

"It's sad. Death is the norm for kids," said Tonto. "If they make it past 23 years old, they're lucky, that's sad."

In regard to real change, he illustrated the lighting problem, pointing out a field with no street lights that he says is pitch black when a nearby gas station sign is turned off.

"At night time it's dark. It's a haven for anything to happen to anybody," said Tonto.

When asked by Cleveland 19 if he would feel safe walking in that area alone in the dark, Tonto replied, "I never feel safe, but it's something I have to do. I am my brother's keeper."

He is a part of the nonprofit, the Society for Non-Violent Change. His organization goes door-to-door, doing outreach, saying that's the only way to get through.

He suggested the community needs to introduce more activities for kids to do after school.

He said things like Police Activity Leagues of years past were beneficial to the community.

Boxing training, football, baseball – things that can keep kids out of trouble and teach discipline at the same time -- can be beneficial.

But, he said it's not just the responsibility of the government; rather, it's each parent's responsibility too to keep their kids out of trouble.

"You just can't say: 'It's the mayor's fault, or the governor's fault, or your city councilman's fault.' This is your child. You have a responsibility as a mother, or a father to do the right thing," said Tonto. "We have to come together as a community to stop this, or what you saw last week, it's going to continue  to happen, except it's going to get worse."

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