‘I was not there to protect him’: Brooklynites share stories of gun violence at national rally
Hundreds of Brooklynites dressed in orange marched across the Brooklyn Bridge from Cadman Plaza on Saturday in an annual demonstration against gun violence.
The Wear Orange National Gun Violence Awareness Day March began after the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013. Following Pendleton’s death, her family and friends wore orange — the color worn by hunters to avoid being accidentally shot by other hunters — in tribute.
Since then, the Wear Orange movement has taken off nationally. Those affected by gun violence and those who turn out to support them march once a year, and organizers bring together anti-gun violence groups to raise awareness.
Organizations from throughout Brooklyn joined in the rally at Cadman Plaza East, where speakers criticized the federal government for not making it more difficult to buy guns and for “ignoring gun violence around the country.”
There have been 74 shootings so far this year in northern Brooklyn — 12 more than last year during the same period, according to police data.
Shooting incidents have fallen in southern Brooklyn, however, with 32 incidents so far this year as compared to 47 in the same period last year.
In March, there was a spike in murders in the borough — especially in northern Brooklyn — when the murder rate in Brooklyn was outpacing the citywide murder rate by 50 percent.
Since then, the murder rate in Brooklyn this year has fallen below last year’s — with 41 murders so far in 2019 compared to 46 over the same period in 2018.
Chief of Department Terence Monahan rolled out a program in May called “All-Out,” adding more police officers to the streets in high-crime areas.
In Brooklyn, the 67th, 73rd, 75th and 79th precincts (comprising the neighborhoods of East Flatbush, Brownsville, East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant, respectively) received more officers to patrol high-crime areas where there were shootings.
Six people were shot on Memorial Day alone in the 75th and 79th precincts, including one man who died of his wounds.
“Our movement gains momentum when gun sense activists come together to fight for a future free from gun violence,” said Cleopatra Pendleton, Hadiya Pendleton’s mother and a founder of Wear Orange Against Gun Violence.
“Wear Orange Weekend is an opportunity for us to show the country just how powerful we are to make changes that will result in less violence,” she said.
State Attorney General Letitia James, who joined the march, rebuked the federal government for being lenient on gun violence in the face of so many deaths.
“Guns are the second leading cause of death of children in America, so inaction is just not an option,” she said. “The inaction of our leaders in Washington as Americans are killed daily is immoral. When politicians refuse to move, it is the people who will move it forward.”
Many of those marching had lost someone to gun violence.
“We need to have more gun control. It’s so easy for people to get a gun — so we have to do something and be here,” said Yarli Alvarez of Park Slope. Alvarez said she was there in honor of her uncle, Alex Aguilar, who was shot to death in 2013.
Nathalie Arzu lost her brother, Jose Webster, who was shot to death at age 16 while walking with his girlfriend on a Bronx street.
“When I got the news from my 10-year-old brother — he was trying to tell me, and I knew something was wrong. I was not there to protect him,” Arzu said. “Celebrations and birthdays will not be the same. He won’t finish high school, experience college and make his mistakes, and he won’t be here for us.”
Sean Jones of Bay Ridge arrived wearing a t-shirt with the names of many young people killed in gun violence including Kimani Gray, Trayvon Martin and Amadou Diallo.
“I’m here because I’m tired of persons being shot wherever they go,” he said. “I want something done about it.”
Todd Maisel is an award-winning photojournalist, specializing in breaking news and visual journalism. He currently serves as vice president of the New York Press Photographers and has been honored by the National Press Photographers Association and the Uniform Firefighters Association. He is a graduate of NYU School of Journalism and has lived in Brooklyn all his life.
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