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Camden Activists Place Crosses At City Hall To Commemorate City’s Murder Victims

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By Jericka Duncan

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — In front of Camden City Hall, 58 crosses bear the names and ages of people who’ve been killed in the city this year.

Hope Brown came to look at the cross for her 25-year-old nephew Garland Banks.

“It hurts, it really hurts – so bad,” said Brown.

Brown lost another nephew last year, along with her 20-year-old son Antwan.

“He was my baby of six kids,” Brown cried. “He was getting ready to start college to be a computer analyst.”

Those stories aren’t pleasing to local officials, who were on hand to honor and rename City Hall after the city’s first black mayor, Melvin “Randy” Primas, Jr.

Due to the dedication ceremony, some city officials wanted the crosses removed, but the mayor allowed them to stand.

“When you have individuals that mourn, the Bible tells you to mourn with them,” said Mayor Dana Redd.

“We didn’t have to have a protest because city officials backed down from removing the crosses,” said community activist Father Jeff Putthoff.

Father Putthoff helped organize the group, S.T.O.P (Stop Trauma On People), that came up with the cross idea.

“I think that it’s clear the issue is about suffering and the pain people are in,” said Putthoff.

Guido’s Pizza manager Jacquez Johnson can see the crosses from the restaurant. He doesn’t mind. In 2004, he says, he was shot in the knee with an AK-47 while on his way home from the store.

“I think crosses are good. It’s a reminder of what’s going on in the city,” said Johnson.