S.O.S. Rally Through Bed-Stuy Gives Stop Violence Message

Community residents, faith leaders, Cure Violence organizations, and elected officials joined the Peace March in Bed-Stuy to close out Gun Violence Awareness Month. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)
Community residents, faith leaders, Cure Violence organizations, and elected officials joined the Peace March in Bed-Stuy to close out Gun Violence Awareness Month. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

Members of the Save Our Streets (S.O.S) program gathered in the Herbert Von King Park yesterday to march for an end to gun violence.

The march comes on the heels of a shooting last week in the Crown Heights area that left two unintended victims severely wounded; one thirty-one years old and the other just eleven years old.

S.O.S Brooklyn is a program of the Neighbors in Action project created through the Center for Court Innovation. The anti-gun violence march had particiipants chanting “ Stop Shooting! Start Living!” and “Guns down Life Up!” throughout their neighborhood ending with a rally at Restoration Plaza located on Fulton Street in the heart of Bed-Stuy. 

Prominent member of the organization, Joshua Simon stated that he felt the march should be consistent in the neighborhood in order to reduce shootings and killings. “We’re trying to bring unity back between the young and the old. There should never be a time where kids can’t sit or play in front of their houses because they’re ducking and dodging bullets.”

Simon felt the local government should become involved by investing into the community with things like recreational centers. “Everyone wants to feel like they belong to something…they don’t want to feel hopeless and those recreational centers would be a great start for these kids.”

S.O.S. organizer Joseph Simmon (center) leading the march across the streets of Bed-Stuy. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)
S.O.S. organizer Joseph Simmon (center) leading the march across the streets of Bed-Stuy. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

Brian Cunningham, Project Director for Neighbors in Action states that the march calls attention to gun violence and serves as a preventative measure to make sure it no longer happens.

“While legislation deals with the long term effects this is a public health crisis that requires immediate attention,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham goes on to express the need for mental health resources that use social and emotional language to tackle issues where individuals may not be able to express themselves about issues affecting them such as socioeconomic inequalities, the gentrification of their neighborhoods and the weight of daily stress.

“Building recreational centers cost millions of dollars which takes time to happen so what we want to do is encourage every nonprofit as well as businesses to become an open house for young people while we wait,” said Cunningham

Cunningham states that his office has been transformed into a space that allows kids from the neighborhood to play video games, watch movies, get out the heat and just relax for a while which he feels creates safe spaces for them to communicate and avoid any violence that can occur in the neighborhood.

Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (center) and VIDA President and District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board Henry L. Butler (left) joined the rally on Saturday. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)
Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (center) and VIDA President and District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board Henry L. Butler (left) joined the march and rally on Saturday. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

Other participants of the march included Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) who agreed that gun violence is in fact a health crisis. “Here in the 56th assembly district we want people to know who they can reach out to if they have any problems related to violence in our communities. It’s trauma inducing and we need to make sure that we are healing people,” she said. 

Nathalie Arzu, 26, spoke at the rally and shared her very emotional connection with gun violence when her brother, Jose Webster was murdered in the Bronx in 2011.

“I share my story because this is a pain that I have to deal with every single day. There are people who either can’t share their stories because its too much for them or don’t think their voice matters. I want to be able to be that voice for them. There needs to be changes in our community and in our politics,” Arzu said.

Nathalie Arzu speaks at the rally in the memory of her brother, Jose Webster, who was fatally shot by a gang in 2011. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)
Nathalie Arzu speaks at the rally in the memory of her brother, Jose Webster, who was fatally shot by a gang in 2011. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

Arzu testified before the City Council against “ghost guns”. “Ghost Guns” are firearms that are created without serial numbers. They can be made at home which may allow gun owners to avoid getting background checks and registration for them. Under federal law the creation and possession of these firearms is allowed but a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution.

Arzu testified to also get sensible-gun laws created in order to get safer communities without infringing on the 2nd Amendment rights of gun owners.

To become a volunteer with the Neighbors In Action project, contact the organization at (718) 773.6886 or email them at [email protected]

Photographs by Tsubasa Berg

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