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Gamechanger: Anton Moore

By KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS) -- When Anton Moore, 29, saw a problem in his South Philadelphia neighborhood, he joined up with fellow community activists and decided to seek solutions.

"We're not just all talk -- we put it into action," says Moore, who grew up in the Tasker Homes housing project and later near 20th and Snyder Avenue.

Moore runs the nonprofit group "Unity in the Community," which holds an annual "Peace Week," an annual bookbag drive, and other efforts that help residents of Moore's neighborhood.

"I love lending a hand to those in need," says Moore.

So, when he got a call from Sean Williams, a South Philadelphia father who noticed that kids were purchasing BB and soft-pellet guns from area corner stores, Moore offered his help.  He and Williams, concerned that a police officer might mistake a child playing with a toy gun for an armed assailant -- visited the store where these non-lethal guns were allegedly sold, and Williams recorded an interaction with a store owner.

They posted the video on Facebook and it went viral.  Moore and others began getting calls from residents requesting action.

"If you look at those BB guns, they look real," says Moore.  "If kids are getting arrested for BB guns and nothing is happening to the store owners, that's a problem."

On Labor Day weekend, Moore and Nakia Carr organized a protest and rally in South Philadelphia.  Elected officials, community leaders, and others came out in support.

"Everyone stepped up to the plate," says Moore.  "We let [the store owners] know, if you're selling BB guns, we're going to shut you down."

The next step was a community town hall meeting.  Moore and other organizers brought in city officials from the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the police department, and other agencies.

"That's when we figured out that the community had questions that the different agencies couldn't answer," he says.

By October, City Council heard testimony on the problem of BB guns. Within weeks of the hearing, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a bill outlawing the sale, possession, or use of BB guns in Philadelphia.  The bill passed in City Council, 16-1.

"It's an example of collaboration," says Moore.  "We were proactive in addressing a problem in our community."

Although Moore and his partners in activism initially got pushback, they feel the death of Tamir Rice -- a twelve-year-old gunned down last November by a rookie police officer in Cleveland as he held a BB gun -- justified their movement.

"What if a kid was out in our community carrying a BB gun and police cannot decipher whether it's real or fake," says Moore.  "Then you have somebody dead over a toy.  I believe we saved lives."


Hear the extended interview with Anton Moore in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 15:14)...


Follow Cherri Gregg on Twitter: @cherrigregg

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