KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, heads into the Fourth of July weekend with 97 homicides already for 2020, and the city is bracing for more.
Last year, the Friday through Tuesday immediately following the Fourth of July saw seven homicides in KCMO.
This year, the first since 2015 where the holiday falls on a Saturday, there's a push to make the weekend murder-free.
"Our goal and our focus is to help people, is to provide an alternative,” Pastor Marvin Kirkwood of Contagious Life Church said. “We're giving out fireworks this weekend. We want people to pop fireworks, not guns. A lot of senseless, senseless gun violence is taking place, I mean, just in the last few days."
Kirkwood is part of the murder-free weekend project. His church is partnering with other churches in Kansas City. In the last week, they have handed out vouchers for fireworks and had food trucks handing out meals to people.
Kirkwood said the people he’s spoken with are craving a break in the violence.
"They said, you know, we're tired of this,” Kirkwood said. “We're tired of this senseless killing and homicides and innocent children being murdered or teenagers being murdered."
Kansas City is well on the way to shattering records for the number of people killed in a single year. The record currently stands at 153, set in 1993.
This year, many of the victims and suspects in homicides are younger than 24 years old. Kirkwood said that's because people don't know how to handle conflict.
"There's a lot of anger issues, a lot of a lot of things that's breeding on the inside of these young people that we have yet to listen to and understand," Kirkwood said.
There's already a GoFundMe page tied to this weekend. It's to pay for mentorship and other resources for those who might otherwise be part of the cycle of violence.
Kirkwood said he has to believe a murder-free weekend is possible in Kansas City.
“If we come together and believe that we can have a murder-free weekend, because a murder-free weekend can turn into murder-free weeks, which will turn into murder-free months, we believe it is possible," Kirkwood said.
Contagious Life Church is partnering with Bishop Mark Tolbert and Victorious Life Church in the project as well.