Hamilton police, city workers and some church groups took the baseball field at the Booker T. Washington Community Center for a unity-building “Pitches for Peace” event Saturday morning.
The rain held off for the prayer for peace led by Pastor Shaquila Matthews and the start of the first softball match between police and other city employees. Matthews, pastor of the Truth & Life Community Church, said events like this are critical.
“My prayer that has been in my heart is just continue unity, praying for the spirit of unity and peace,” she told this news organization. “People coming together, people being involved in wanting our city to become more unified. All 17 neighborhoods.”
Police Chief Craig Bucheit said the event was planned well before 13-year-old Jaraius Gilbert Jr. was shot to death on Aug. 29. Miquan Damartye Hubbard, 18, has been charged with murder in the shooting that occurred on South Front Street.
Bucheit said the event was important to hold even if rain-filled weather kept some away.
“I know a lot of people are here in spirit,” he said. “I know many people in the community know why we’re here today and they support that. That’s the biggest part.”
Bucheit said the event wasn’t just about bringing a sense of unity to the community, but also to raise funds for Samy Broyles’ little league program at the BTW center. The chief said Broyles started the program a few years ago and it is an opportunity to get kids together with mentors in the community to help keep them off the streets and engaged in positive activities.
“We’ve raised some money, and we’ve raised some awareness,” Bucheit said. “And I think that’s what is most important.”
Hubbard was arrested three days after the shooting of Gilbert when another adult was also shot. He is in the Butler County Jail on a $2 million bond. After the shooting, Bucheit told this news organization that it was a planned and targeted attack on the Wilson Middle School eighth-grader.
Broyles said the Saturday event was an opportunity to show the community violence will not be tolerated.
“It’s very important definitely, with the recent violence that just happened with Jaraius, that we don’t want to have a community of violence, that we’re not going to accept that culture of violence,” Broyles said. “Anyone that wants to be part of that culture of violence, well then we’re here to stand against that.”
“Pitches for Peace” has raised $1,000 so far, and donations are still being accepted.