By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

It was a sea of purple T-shirts and gold balloons on Saturday in Orange, the hometown of Akirah Townes.

Family and friends gathered for a memorial service and rally against domestic violence. Hundreds of people marched from the Townes’ family home on Laurel Street to the Orange Police Department headquarters on Park Street. It was part of an ongoing effort to remember Akirah’s life, and to call attention to the issue of domestic violence in our society.

Her family hopes that what happened to Akirah will not happen to other young people.

The Townes family is setting up a foundation in their daughter’s memory called Akirah Kares. The foundation will help educate teens and young adults, and their parents, about the warning signs of domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

Townes, 20, was stabbed and killed on April 23 by her ex-boyfriend in Montclair, according to police. Orange police said Townes did not file any complaints or reports against Broomes.

The rally and march were followed by a memorial service at Lincoln Avenue School in Orange.

Townes was planning to become a special education teacher, and would have received her degree from Kean University this summer.

“She was taken too soon,” Kim Townes, Akirah’s mother, said on Monday. “She was going to be an asset to society.”

She said that her daughter gave much of her time to working with autistic children in the community.

Authorities said Townes was stabbed during an altercation on Hartley Street, as she was preparing to leave for a vacation in Virginia Beach. Ahigjah Broomes, 21, turned himself in to authorities in Orange later that day.

Broomes had his first court appearance in Essex County Superior Court in Newark on Monday, April 30, followed by a detention hearing before Judge Nancy Sivilli on May 3. At that hearing, the judge ruled that Broomes would remain in custody pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is expected to take place over the next six weeks.

Broomes was accompanied at the hearing by his attorney, Sean McGovern. The case is being overseen by assistant prosecutors Justin Edwab and Dawn Simonetti.

Kristin Wald is a board member of Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (SOFIA), a Montclair-based group that works with women and families affected by domestic violence.

“Tragic situations like Akirah’s remind us that intimate partner violence can and does affect us all, in all parts of society. There is no ‘typical’ victim, and we all know someone currently experiencing unhealthy or violent relationships,” Wald said.

In 2008, Monica Paul was shot and killed at the Montclair YMCA. Her former boyfriend, Kenneth Duckett, was later tried and convicted of her murder.

According to the New Jersey State Police’s 2015 report on domestic violence, the most recent compiled report to date, there were 61,659 cases of domestic violence reported by local police departments to the state in 2015.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that about 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Additionally, nearly three in 10 women and one in 10 men have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking from a partner.