About 300 San Fernando Valley residents braved withering heat Saturday to send a message to gang members: Don't mess with us.
Moms pushing strollers and solemn-faced men in hats and sunglasses were joined by skateboard-toting teenage boys and little girls in sundresses as they paraded down Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima to demand that Valley gangs end their violence.
There's evidence that gang members are listening, participants and organizers said.
After a May 9 gang shooting in Panorama City killed a 3-year-old boy and sparked community outrage, "the level of gang violence throughout the Valley calmed down considerably," said Gilbert Bautista, a Los Angeles County probation officer who attended the march and is in charge of an anti-gang unit. "Even gang members often have some kind of conscience."
Jaime Peralta of Communities in Schools, a nonprofit gang intervention group that sponsored the march with the help of area churches, agreed. Since the May 9 slaying, gangs have been talking to each other in an effort to reach a truce, he said.