Bay Ridge Prep student organizing town hall on guns
The movement started by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students that led to the March for Our Lives protest last month is showing no signs of slowing down.
In recent days, teenagers who have been inspired by the survivors of the Parkland, Florida massacre have been organizing town halls in congressional districts all over the country to demands answers from House members and candidates running for House seats on how they intend to stem gun violence against young people in America.
Bay Ridge will be the setting for a town hall this weekend.
Alex Pellitteri, a senior at Bay Ridge Prep, is organizing a town hall to take place on Saturday, April 14, at Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, 414 80th St., at 3 p.m.
“I didn’t just want to complain about it. I wanted to do something about it,” Pellitteri told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.
A panel of experts is expected to be on hand at the town hall to discuss gun violence. A question and answer session will take place to give audience members a chance to pose questions to the panelists.
Pellitteri has also invited candidates running for the seat in the 11th Congressional District currently held by Republican Dan Donovan to speak at the town hall to present their platforms for stopping violence against young people.
To date, three candidates running in the Democratic Primary have accepted the invitation.
Pellitteri said that while he has been inspired by the massive protest movement led by the Parkland, Florida students, the focus of the town hall he is organizing will be more varied. Most of the marches and town halls have focused on gun violence in schools. “Our town hall will look at gun violence against young people in general,” he told the Eagle. “Young people are facing violence, not just here but everywhere. There is a lot of violence in foreign countries as a result of U.S. foreign policy.”
While school shootings have been making the headlines, Pellitteri said schools aren’t the only places where teenagers feel unsafe.
He pointed out that young people are being shot by police and that teens are being killed in conflicts in the Middle East.
His town hall, he said, will provide a forum to discuss solutions to combat all forms of violence against youth.
Still, Pellitteri is aware that he is part of a cultural revolution taking place here in the U.S. “We are recognizing our potential as students,” he said.
Since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in which a gunman shot and killed 17 people with an AR-15, survivors have organized a National School Walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives on March 24.
Students from several Brooklyn high schools, including Fort Hamilton, New Utrecht and Abraham Lincoln, participated in the March 14 walkout, which took place one month to the day of the Parkland, Florida tragedy.
Hundreds of students poured out of the main entrance of New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst at 10 a.m. that morning and walked around the block for 17 minutes in tribute to the 17 victims.
The protest was organized by the Parkland survivors to call on Congress to pass new laws to curb gun violence.
Gianna Bader, a New Utrecht junior, said the Parkland massacre made her sit up and take notice. “What happened was so horrible. I feel terrible for the kids in Florida,” she said.
On March 24, hundreds of thousands of protesters took part in March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the country.
Pellitteri will be busy this week finalizing the plans for the town hall.
Pellitteri, who will attend Hunter College in the fall, said he plans to study political science.
He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and has worked with grassroots groups like Fight Back Bay Ridge on various issues. He also helped to organize an anti-discrimination march that took place in Bay Ridge on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Pellitteri’s political awakening took place gradually. “It happened over time. I saw how I came from a privileged background and have a lot of advantages. It’s important to help people who don’t have the advantages that I’ve had,” he said.
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