More than 75 people walked from West Rehoboth to Burton Village in Rehoboth Beach during an annual march for peace punctuated this year by chants of “No gun shop” and “We’ve come too far.”
Organized by Eleanor Whaley, vice-president of the West Rehoboth Community Land Trust, this is the fifth march for peace held in West Rehoboth.
“West Rehoboth is really trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We are getting better. We are doing positive things in West Rehoboth,” Whaley said. “I’m going to stand for West Rehoboth. No gun shop in West Rehoboth.”
The Aug. 4 marchers first walked to the parking lot of the proposed gun shop on Hebron Road before turning around to head to Burton Village.
“I believe and I think that is a situation waiting to happen,” Whaley said. “Why would you put a gun shop in a little small town such as West Rehoboth? Why not put a Laundromat in there? Why not put a little shop in there? I don’t want to see a gun shop in West Rehoboth; we don’t need that.”
Whaley said she was concerned someone will break into the gun shop, steal a gun and use it on someone in the community. She said a gun shop could undermine the progress West Rehoboth has made the last five years to get drug dealers and crime out of the community.
Beth Doty, president of the land trust, said, “It’s just bad for the community. We really have no recourse. This is just not helpful. We’re making some really good headway in West Rehoboth. Crime is down. There’s a ways to go, don’t get me wrong. This is just a bad thing for the community.”
Whaley started the march as a way to cope with the loss of her son, Coley Marchtmon, known to his friends as Pete, who died at age 34 when he was attacked and beaten by four assailants in Burton Village. At the end of the march, participants gathered in a circle in Burton Village and prayed for an end to violence in West Rehoboth.
Illya Waters, who grew up with Martchmon and brought a sign in support of his late friend, said, “That’s a high crime area, you’re going to put a gun shop there?”
As she has done every year, Whaley wore a shirt with her son’s picture on it. Arriving at Burton Village, Whaley told the crowd she forgave the people who beat her son. She said when Coley was in the hospital, she urged his friends not to retaliate.
Whaley said she does not believe Coley died from injuries sustained in the beating; she blames respirator malfunction at Christiana Hospital, where he was taken. After four years of legal wrangling, she said, her attorneys dropped her case.
“I stand here today – I may be brokenhearted, but if it’s not meant to be, it’s not to be,” Whaley said. “But I know one day I will see him (Coley) again.”
Whaley also read tributes to West Rehoboth resident Orlando Byers, known to his friends as Kunt, who died in a car accident, and Trayvon Martin, whom she honored by putting up the hood of her sweatshirt. Whaley said she will continue to lead peace marches as long as she can.
“I’m still going to talk peace. And I’m still going to talk about the violence we do to one another,” she said. “We have to stand together. We have to hold one another up.”