Tomorrow: Ridge teen to host town hall on violence against young people with congressional candidates

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Associated Press / Charles Trainor Jr

Call him ahead of his class.

A Bay Ridge teen has organized a town hall on violence against young people set for April 14 at the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church with the aim of broadening the gun-violence discussion that has mobilized youth following the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The high school senior said he was glad the “March for Our Lives” movement was bringing more attention to the issue of gun control, but complained it’s narrow focus on suburban school shootings ignores other kinds of violence faced by young people around the world, as well as young people of color in America.

“Young people are being murdered by police officers. Young people are dying in places like Palestine and Yemen. If school shootings are your primary concern, most people don’t have that privilege. It leaves out people of color, people who live in foreign countries, people who are disabled,” said Alex Pellitteri.

The Bay Ridge Prep student said his goal is to widen the youth movement’s view about the violence young people face.

“While still harvesting the power of the youth and students,” he said, “I just wanted to make the conversation broader and more inclusive.”

The Saturday event will include a panel of experts and activists — including local Yemeni-American activist Rabyaah Althaibani — who will discuss some of the ways young people experience violence around the world, followed by a question-and-answer session with some of the candidates vying for the Rock-to-Ridge congressional seat currently held by Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge).

Democratic candidates Michael DeVito Jr., Omar Vaid, Paul Sterling, and Zach Emig all plan to attend, according to Pellitteri, but a rep for Staten Island Democrat Max Rose said he wouldn’t be able to attend due to National Guard duty.

Reps for Republican candidate and convicted felon Michael Grimm — who’s trying to win his old seat back after a seven-month stint in the federal slammer for tax fraud — and Democratic candidate Radhakrishna Mohan did not respond to inquiries by press time.

By press time, a spokeswoman for Donovan said she was unsure if he would attend.

Pellitteri said he also invited state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), whose rep also did not respond to an inquiry regarding his attendance. And a rep for Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) — who is on a trip to Israel with Council Speaker Corey Johnson — said he will attend in his place.

Pellitteri said the venue — an Arab Christian church between Fourth and Fifth avenues where second-place Democratic Council candidate Khader El-Yateem is the presiding minister — was a symbolic choice, given both the violence Arab communities face, meant to underline how he wants to expand the discussion beyond the focus on school shooting, which almost exclusively affects white, suburban communities.

“Bay Ridge has a very large Arab population, and they are unfortunately some of the people most vulnerable to violence in our society,” he said. “The March for Our Lives movement is good, and I’m glad that young people are realizing the power that we have, but I feel like when you only talk about school shootings and then talk about ‘our lives’ —who’s the ‘our?’ ”

Town hall on violence against young people and candidate Q-and-A [Salam Arabic Lutheran Church at 414 80th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Bay Ridge, (718) 748–4024] April 14 from 3–5 pm.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.