A group of Portland activists have launched a campaign to break a cycle of shootings which have alarmed police and members of the community.

#WeAreTheCaution was launched by local activists and former gang members Roy Moore and Lionel Irving. The two founded a nonprofit called Men Building Men, which brings together men from the community to mentor young students and instill a culture of accountability. The goal is to break a cycle of violence that has played out over generations.

Roosevelt High School senior Jonah Williams wears an 'I Don't Want To Die Young' t-shirt while warming up for their game against Jefferson High School on Friday, January 17, 2020.

Roosevelt High School senior Jonah Williams wears an ‘I Don’t Want To Die Young’ t-shirt while warming up for their game against Jefferson High School on Friday, January 17, 2020.

Jonathan Levinson

“We’re tired of seeing caution tape in our communities,” said Moore. “The police can’t fix this. This is us wrapping caution tape around our own community.”

Friday night Moore and Irving brought their message to the Roosevelt versus Jefferson High School basketball game. Players and attendees from both schools wore bright yellow shirts that read “I don’t want to die young” and “stop the violence.”

“[It’s] basically just a protest saying we don’t want as much violence in the community,” said Roosevelt senior Jonah Williams in the locker room after the game. “It’s been getting pretty bad in this area with young teens getting into violence at a young age.”

There were 23 shootings in Portland during the first 10 days of the year. Police and local activists said online insults likely spilled over into the streets resulting in a cycle of retaliatory shootings. One former gang member said a fight at a New Year’s party led to a number of retaliations. Police said they were alarmed to have found as many as 55 shell casings from multiple firearms at some scenes, suggesting there were exchanges of gunfire between multiple people. 

At a press conference in December, members of PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team said it’s difficult to pin down a specific cause.

“A lot of these incidents are connected to the shooting before and the shooting before and it can actually go back for years,” said Sergeant Ken Duilio.

Roosevelt High School's varsity basketball team wears 'Stop the Violence' and 'I Don't Want To Die Young' t-shirts in the locker room before their game against Jefferson High School on Friday, January 17, 2020.

Roosevelt High School’s varsity basketball team wears ‘Stop the Violence’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Die Young’ t-shirts in the locker room before their game against Jefferson High School on Friday, January 17, 2020.

Jonathan Levinson

During half time at Roosevelt High School on Friday, Portland Trailblazers DJ OG One played music and Roosevelt alum turned hip hop artist Bon Wavi performed a song he wrote called “Stop The Violence.”  

“You can’t control what people do,” said Bon Wavi. “What you can do is give them a message, say your perspective, and hopefully they hear what you got to say so that’s what I was trying to do on that song.”

Moore and Irving have similar events planned this month at other Portland high schools.