Brooklyn took a stand against gun violence on Sunday.
Two marches commenced on the afternoon of Aug. 15 from points in northern and central Brooklyn, bringing hundreds of frustrated residents out to demand that more be done to bring safety and peace to their communities.
Commencing at both Cooper Park Houses between Frost Street and Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, and Hope Garden Houses between Wilson Avenue and Linden Street in Bushwick, the two groups set off in solidarity. Stomping through the summer heat and the Brooklyn streets, dozens of demonstrators, including elected officials, wielded signs while reciting, “Stop shooting, start living!”
For those walking on Sunday afternoon, this march was not some abstract action but a matter of life and death that came knocking at their doorsteps.
Debra Benders, the Resident Council President at the Cooper Park Houses, told amNewYork Metro of the horrors of experiencing gun violence firsthand after discovering a neighbor and friend wounded from a bullet.
“The young man that got shot, he got shot right in front of the building. My neighbor, we grew up together, he called me, and I went down his house to see this man lying on the ground. When I say I couldn’t stop crying, This could have been one of my sons, and it could have easily been me,” Benders said. “It was very scary especially knowing there were people outside aside from the person who got shot, any kid could have gotten shot. When are we going to stop this violence?”
Benders is familiar with the residents of the community, and she would often see the victim, Benjamin Robles, heading to and from work. Upon seeing the man injured, she contacted his father, who resides in California since as a parent, Benders feels that this situation was something so many dread now.
“He goes to work and comes back home. He was not in a gang,” Benders explained, sharing that she believes more services should be offered to middle aged adults as well as mental health programs. “This is acts of violence that shouldn’t be going on. We need to find some kind of program that they can get services as well,” Benders added.
The two marches converged at Green Central Knoll Park where a press conference was held, hoping to highlight the issue at hand.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, and others to speak on the importance of preventing gun violence and creating youth programs.
“We are taking back our streets. We are saying gun violence is too much. We are saying communities can come together and stop it in a peaceful, thoughtful, careful, and non-bigoted way, non-discriminatory way and that is what we are here to do,” Schumer said. He added that his stance against gun violence and push for more stringent laws as garnered him “Public Enemy Number One” by the NRA — a title he says he is proud to have.