Ampry-Samuel, Walker Lead Brownsville Call For Peace

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Members of the Brownsville Rapid Response Coalition (BRRC) marched last night against gun violence in the aftermath of last Saturday’s devastating shooting.

The incident occurred at the neighborhoods annual Old Timers Event. Brownsville resident Jason Pagan, 38, was killed while 11 others were injured. The event had formally concluded at the time of the shooting.

According to the NYPD, the shooting may be gang-related. Advocates say the community has been under-served, and that future instances of violence could be avoided if elected officials did their due diligence. The community’s advocates did not hold back their anger about their perceived neglect.

Alicka Ampry-Samuel
City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

It’s hard out here in Brownsville,” said City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brownsville). “People don’t give a damn about us. We’ve got a handful of elected officials that actually care. So when we [the community] come together we need ya’ll to have our back. Because we’re fighting in City Hall. We’re fighting in Albany. We don’t need to be fighting in the street.”

The BRRC was launched this past weekend in wake of the tragedy. It is comprised of Brownsville based anti-violence organizations, elected officials, and community leaders. “A mass shooting requires a massive response, and subsequent resources to address the issue,” the coalition announced.

The group is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio to declare the incident a mass shooting. Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville) implored her constituents to contact their elected officials.

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker

There are critical resources we are not getting simply because the governor and the mayor have not declared this a mass shooting. I have never seen 12 people shot in Brownsville at one time. Get your phones out now, please,” Walker said. “I need you to tweet the mayor. I need you to tweet the governor. I need you to tweet our Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, to declare this scenario for what it is. A mass shooting.”

Community residents spoke highly of the annual Old Timers event, saying its legacy is built on love and acknowledgment of Brownsville’s history, their struggle, and their victory.

What happened [Saturday] interrupted an event that, up until then, represented everything good about the Brownsville community,” said de Blasio, following the shooting.

Advocates emphasized the resident’s affection for their community and its traditions.

You know, nobody wants to move out,” said Brooklyn Bishop Ismael Claudio. “That’s why we need to make our community safer.”

Attempts to accomplish this goal have been, in the community’s view, futile. The prospect of remedying violence with more policing was meant with contempt.

As the Brownsville Rapid Response Coalition and elected officials marched through Brownsville, life goes on for a Brownsville youth enjoying the time-honored tradition of playing in a fire hydrant on a hot summer day. Photo by Denise Ladji.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams inveighed against the idea, deeming it an ineffective and superficial solution.

If policing alone could have solved this problem it would’ve been solved already,” said Williams. “We have to stop applying an acute solution to a very complex problem. I just want to say to all the people who talk about the shootings and talk about the violence; get some money to these community groups. These nonprofits solve problems better than government when fully funded. And the number one way to cut violent crime in half? Provide jobs.”

The crowd marched down Rockaway Avenue chanting: “Don’t shoot, I wanna grow up.”

The community has been demoralized by the event, more than one speaker described the incident as a traumatic one. Nevertheless, advocates hope the ordeal will bring about positive changes, shedding light on issues that they feel have long been ignored.

The voices of our community have been muted for too long,” said Walker. “This is our moment to turn our tragedy into triumph.”

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