Students of a Crown Heights charter school walked out of their classroom on Friday to protest gun violence, and the inaction of legislators to quash the scourge of gun deaths.
Launch Charter School students held the protest, which led them down Fulton Avenue to a rally at Restoration Plaza, marking the 8th annual event the middle school has organized to mark Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Holding signs that read “Put your guns away, there are kids on the playground,” and “Guns kill our loved ones,” the middle schoolers chanted “Save our streets.”
Some of the kids who organized the march have been affected by gun violence in their community. Many have lost parents, siblings, friends and neighbors to isolated incidents, street crime, domestic abuse and gang violence. They are now asking for community members to reach out for support to many of the organizations that work on helping mental health when dealing with a threatening environment.
Gun violence claims tens of thousands of lives each year in the U.S. In 2021, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries.
That is the highest number of both gun murders and gun suicides in any year on record, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Approximately 327 people are shot in the country every day and 7,957 children and teens are shot every year, according to The Brady United Organization, named after the act that imposes a waiting period of 5 days before a handgun can be sold to an unlicensed individual.
“We spent 5 weeks studying the devastating effects of gun violence in our country and in our community,” said 7th grader Jahmir Caton, a student ambassador of the cause, who lost his cousin to gun violence two years ago. “I would really like for policymakers to make stricter gun laws, and to increase the chance of Brooklyn being gun-free.”
The Crown Heights students gathered signatures on a petition demanding elected officials for gun control, investments in community-based violence prevention and enhancements in education and outreach.
“Every time I come back I feel the passion and I’m reminded of why I want to become a defense attorney,” said Launch Charter School alumni, Diamond Smith who will graduate from high school this year. “There is a better way of living and that is what I want to see in Brooklyn. I want to be able to go to my neighbor and ask for a cup of sugar.”
“People my age are desensitized about this issue,” she said. “Schools need to stop trying to teach through textbooks and start bringing kids out to talk about real experiences. I keep thinking I could be next. I feel for these families who suffer from violence and I don’t wish it on anyone.”
At the Crown Heights rally, members of Save Our Streets (S.O.S.), who work in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant to change local norms around violence and create educational and employment opportunities to end gun violence, offered their assistance to the kids.
“Thank you for letting us know what you want,” said a speaker from S.O.S. “Coming out to the streets and demanding a stop to this madness will make a difference.”