An emotional group of New York lawmakers and activists gathered at Grand Army Plaza Monday night to mourn the victims of the mass shootings in Brownsville, El Paso and Dayton which claimed more than 30 lives over the last week.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams assembled federal, state and city elected officials and activists including Congresswomen Yvette Clarke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Attorney General Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, to decry the surge in gun violence that has rattled the city and the country. They made clear that they “are sick and tired of thoughts and prayers” in response to what they say is a preventable crisis.
Attorney General James called out the GOP-led Senate’s failure to enact meaningful gun regulation, urging the public to mobilize and “vote them out.”
“Because thoughts and prayers will never be enough when innocent people are killed,” said James. “And when you’ve got a congress, and particularly Republicans in the Senate, who have been hijacked by the NRA, who are feckless and do-nothings without a spine. We need to take back our country. We need to vote in record numbers to demonstrate our unity and who we are as a country.”
On Saturday morning, a gunman with an AK-47 killed 22 people and injured 26 others at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Less than 24 hours, a second shooter equipped with an AK-47 and dressed in body armor went on a rampage outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people and wounding 27. The incidents come just a week after two mass shootings took place in Brownsville and Gilroy, California.
While congressional lawmakers called on the Senate to enact gun reforms the House passed earlier this year, local representatives put their focus on the recent shootings in Brooklyn and other inner-city areas throughout the country.
“We have a demonic obsession with guns in this country,” said Williams. “How stupid do you have to be to understand that guns are part of gun violence in this country? The access to guns, from the handguns in Brownsville to the AK-47 in El Paso, is the problem.”
Williams called on members of the crowd to raise their hands if they had lost a loved one to gun violence, “because what we’re not going to do is pass laws dealing with the mass violence and machine guns and leave these families here out.”
BP Adams criticized the different reaction from the media and public when shootings take place in communities of color.
“If the shooting in Brownsville would have happened near Park Avenue and not Park Place, we would have had a different response,” he said.
In addition to calling on the Senate to enact several bills the House already passed, including requiring background checks and banning assault rifles, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez emphasized the need to recognize white supremacy as terrorism that is “weaving a braid of violence throughout the country,” and is fueled by President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, she said.
“We need to address the rhetoric around immigration in this country because it is directly responsible for what happened in El Paso,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “When we allude to people as an invasion, as an infestation, we are directly pulling from the language of white supremacy. So I don’t want to hear the question, ‘Is this president racist?’ anymore. He is.”
Congresswoman Clarke called on the crowd to mobilize and join lawmakers at a rally in Washington D.C., and to not stop until “we get gun control in this nation.
“These are some wicked people who preach a whole lot about Christianity, pontificate about life, and who deserves it and who doesn’t,” said Clarke. “The bottom line is, that it’s up to us. We are mobilizing people from across this country to shut Washington D.C. down on September 25.”
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