March for Our Lives supporters rally in Coney Island

March 28, 2018 Victoria Merlino
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Across the country on March 24, hundreds of thousands of people marched to stand against gun violence in March for Our Lives demonstrations, proclaiming that mass shooting and gun violence must end.

Coney Island  hosted a demonstration of its own, bringing over 100 protesters and activists to the iconic Parachute Jump to stand up to gun violence in the community and beyond. The event was organized by the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing violence in Coney Island and strengthening the community.

State Senator Diane Savino passionately advocated for greater gun control during her speech at the rally. While,  in 2013, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed the New York Safe Act, which banned the sale of assault weapons, instituted stronger background checks, eliminated opportunities for people with serious mental illnesses to buy guns and took away guns from domestic abusers, Savino said it was still not enough.

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Other states still have less strict guns laws, which opens opportunities for guns to trickle into New York, said Savino. “And what you can’t do in New York, you can do in Virginia, and it ain’t that hard to get to Virginia,” she said.

“The reality is that far too many of our young people in communities like Coney Island deal with gun violence on a daily basis. And we need to crack down on illegal guns, un-legal guns, on gun violence totally. It’s time for Congress to act,” Savino said.

Councilmember Mark Treyger also spoke at the rally, asserting that Congress needs to act to prevent gun violence.

“There are some that are saying that this latest student uprising, this movement is a new phenomenon. It is not a new phenomenon. The only thing that’s new is that there are more cameras and people paying attention,” he said.

“But it shouldn’t take a massacre in a high school to get this level of attention,” Treyger contended. “It shouldn’t take acts of gun violence in neighborhoods like here in Coney Island, or in Parkland, or Sandy Hook, or Chicago or other locations across the country. Every single life is precious. Am I right?”

The crowd shouted out a resounding, “Yes.”

Treyger referred to President Donald Trump as the “tweeter-in-chief,” and called Trump’s idea of having more guns in school “outrageous.” Instead, said Treyger, a former public school teacher himself, schools should have more guidance counselors, social workers and support staff.

Mathylde Frontus, founder of Urban Neighborhood Services, a community-based organization in Coney Island, as well as founder of the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative, told the crowd how she helped organize the Coney Island community against gun violence after two people were shot in Coney Island in a three-day span in 2013.

“Organize your neighbors. Bring people together. Host a meeting in your living room. Host a meeting in your community center. And let people know that we are going to take our streets back. And we’re not going to sit idly by while people die in our streets,” she encouraged the crowd.

“I’m literally begging everybody to don’t give up, don’t go home, don’t pat yourselves on the back,” Frontus went on. “Let’s keep organizing, let’s keep putting pressure on our elected officials, and we are going to demand gun reform now!”

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