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Rasin’s Group Becomes Anti-Violence “Army”

Pantele’s comment struck a chord with Rick Tatnall, administrator of the Richmond Small Business Alliance, who had joined Rasin’s organization a year ago. Tatnall, like Pantele and others, had come to view Rasin as an icon — a pillar of compassion, a sign of distress.

But after months spent participating in prayer vigils memorializing homicide victims or walks in solidarity to take back the streets, Tatnall concluded the group’s work should be more than symbolic. So in February, Tatnall approached Rasin and asked if he could help steer the organization in a new direction. Rasin agreed.

“We want to create Alicia’s Army,” Tatnall says. “We don’t want it to grow to 60 or 70 but to thousands.” Until now, he says, “There’s been a constant break in the line” from one act of violence to the next.

This weekend Citizens Against Violence will sponsor its first initiative to coincide with its newly expanded mission. Saturday, Aug. 16, a rally and walk will leave at noon from First Baptist Church of South Richmond. Then, Sunday, Aug. 17, a family volunteer festival will take place from noon to 6 p.m. at Gillies Creek Park in Richmond’s East End.

“Alicia’s always going to be doing what she does,” Tatnall says of Rasin’s on-the-scene counseling. “But there are always 40 or 50 people following her, and we want to act as a funnel for these volunteers” as a kind of job-placement service, database and incubator of new community anticrime initiatives.

Citizens Against Violence will coordinate its agenda with the Richmond Community Crime Control Plan, an effort started last year by Richmond Police Chief Chief Andre Parker and supported by City Council, to reduce real and perceived crime in the city and step up community policing, among other things.

The group plans to have five components: a volunteer-placement program, a database of all assistance programs in Greater Richmond, a community-patrol program, a victim-counseling program and a youth program. Volunteers who sign up agree to commit 12 hours every six months to working on a specific initiative.

“We’re not asking people to walk the streets in Gilpin Court at night, though some may want to do that,” Tatnall says. “But it could mean driving kids from Church Hill to Pine Camp.” — Brandon Walters

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