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Group Believes 'Good Vibes' Can Thwart Albany Violence

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins addresses residents during a recent community forum.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins addresses residents during a recent community forum.

A weekend rally and march protesting recent violence kicked off "Albany Peace Week."

The Albany Peace Project launched its first ever "Albany Peace Week" Saturday at City Hall, where members met on the steps and then marched to the South End Children's Cafe on Warren Street. Bethany Gonyea is founder of the Global Peaceful Cities Project.   "We did a presentation at City Hall where we talked about kind of different approaches to solving violence, and instead of us kind of crossing our fingers, hopeful it'll be peaceful, us taking more charge of that and keeping peace and what does that mean?"

The Peace Project describes itself as "an online and offline community of meditators who focus their meditation intentional efforts to help eliminate suffering in" the Albany area.   "People perform violence on people when their hearts are not open. Meaning, when they look at people as an object or an 'other,' it's much easier for them to pull a trigger. In this type of work that we're doing we're actually cleaning the nervous system so it literally kind of opens the heart. Just helps people relate to each other again, not feel so isolated."

Gonyea was scheduled to meet with Mayor Kathy Sheehan to demonstrate meditation technique, which the group is directing toward curbing violence in Albany's South End.   "There's this phenomenon that shows when a relatively small amount of people meditate there's a corresponding reduction of violence in the area."

She notes last year she and her team conducted a similar effort in Schenectady that reduced crime in the focus area by 25 percent.

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Gonyea hopes to get enough people meditating, joining in "intentional coherence," to align the mind with the heart, and invoke feelings of love, appreciation and care, thus blanketing the neighborhood with a "calming effect."   "So we're inviting people to do coherency meditations at 7 in the morning, 12 noon and 7 o'clock at night, and we're measuring how many people are meditating and sending the intentions for peace. And we'll look at the Albany Police Department crime data to determine how much of an impact our intentions have made."

Meantime Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins says the department is close to cracking July’s daylight shooting along Third Avenue and Teunis Street that left a 3-year old child injured.   "My detectives are tellin' me that they're makin' a lot of progress. And there's some identifications that have been made, and now it's just a matter of compiling enough evidence to present that will allow us to prosecute those individuals."

Peace Week runs through August 9th.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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