Dozens of students, educators, and representatives from gun violence prevention groups from a Brooklyn high school marched Wednesday to Justice Gilbert Ramirez Park to protest against gun violence.
The protest followed a recent shooting that took place outside of Williamsburg Charter High School, located in East Williamsburg. On Feb. 8, in front of the school, a 15-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy, and a 37-year-old security guard were shot during an alleged dispute among several students. All three survived.
In response to the shooting, a group of students, teachers, families, and residents formed a coalition called GROW (Gathering of Resources and Organizations in Williamsburg) that aims to curb youth gun violence in and around Brooklyn. The GROW coalition launched an online petition calling for an end to the violence, which rally-goers also signed while participating in the march.
The petition lists five demands. It calls for the expansion of the partnership between the NYPD and the school; the passage of legislation in support of school-to-school information sharing; improved coordination of violence interrupters in communities; additional funding for social-emotional support in schools in the neighborhood; and the expansion of community hiring efforts for young adults.
The GROW campaign focuses on building the school community as a means to end youth gun violence, via advocacy, strategic partnerships and funding. NYPD officers from the 90th Precinct also joined the march and rally.
Students took turns vocalizing their fears and concerns about the recent rise in gun violence at schools across the nation, including the mass shooting that killed three children and three staff members at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee on March 27.
Some WCHS students rehashed the chaos outside their school when the recent shooting took place. They recounted their fears of nearly getting caught in the crossfire and the emotional trauma left in its wake.
“We’re supposed to be in school,” said Savannah Fox, a WCHS senior. “We’re supposed to be learning about things that we want to know and learning about how to be a better person in the world. But instead, we have to come here and fear at the fact that we may not come home tomorrow.”
Leonard Myers, a faculty member who works in the student life department, recalled his nightmare of dealing with gun violence.
“My own child who was shot multiple times as a teenager,” Myers said. “It has shaped my life [and] to come into the community where I was raised.”
Principal Jahi Bashir bemoaned the gun violence wreaking havoc across New York City and the broader American landscape.
“We’ve heard our mayor talk about different initiatives to get guns off of the streets, but we haven’t seen anything yet,” Bashir said. “We need legislators to really pay attention and to think further or more deeply about mental health and resources.”
Other students, like Denae Tucker and Ja’mir Wright, expressed their thoughts through song and poetry. Wright, a junior at Williamsburg Charter High School, read from his poem, titled “Bullet Wounds.”
“The roaring sound of a bullet scares me / thinking one day that could be me / living in fear with my peers / The violence / We steadily become immune / to cuts and bruises / The violent music / Has it become therapeutic? / I know some of us don’t have a role model to guide us / But why turn to violence? / Why are we so divided? / There hasn’t been a night where I slept in silence.”