Hundreds of mourners gathered at Grand Army Plaza on Monday to grieve the recent victims of numerous mass shootings and to demand Congress enact tougher gun laws.
“This is not just about assault weapons — this is about gun violence in all of our communities,” Congressional Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens) said. “We have to do more.”
The Aug. 5 gathering formed after a particularly bloody 10-day stretch of gun violence in both Brooklyn and around the country. Mass shootings in Brownsville, California, Texas, Ohio, and Crown Heights combined to leave at least 55 injured and 36 dead, represented at the vigil by candles and empty shoes.
In New York City, shootings are up from 426 this time last year to 448 thus far in 2019, according to NYPD crime statistics.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams took the microphone as the sun set over Monday’s solemn gathering, the former councilman from Canarsie biting back tears as he railed against the senseless nature of the violence tearing communities apart.
“I’m so tired of these vigils and these candles,” he said. “This is a plague on this country. And what’s worse — this is the most preventable plague that this planet has ever seen. It is 100 percent preventable.”
The vigil-turned-rally focused predominantly on gun legislation, but Borough President Eric Adams expressed disappointment in the reaction to the July 27 shooting at a street fair in Brownsville that left one dead and 11 others injured, arguing that the political impact of the carnage was mollified by the race of the victims.
“If the shooting in Brownsville would’ve happened on Park Avenue instead of Park Place, we would have a different response in this city and in this country,” he said. “A mother does not mourn differently based on the ethnicity of her baby, she mourns anytime she loses a child.”
And while the speakers blamed loose gun regulations for enabling mass murderers, they pointed the finger at President Trump for empowering them to act.
“Individuals are emboldened by racist rhetoric coming from the highest of offices, who refuses to understand the power of his words,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James. “What we need to do is inspire individuals and bring people together and talk about our aspirations as a nation.”
The freshman congresswoman from Queens was even less diplomatic in her critique of the president.
“I’m tired of questioning if the president is racist,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “He is.”