Amid surge in gun violence, Brooklyn residents pray for peace, prepare to help

Randolph Waterman of East Flatbush Village rally on Utica Avenue and Church Avenue calling for the violence to end, but resources are needed. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

As Brooklyn copes with a troubling spike in shootings, residents gathered together in a united plea to city residents and gang members to “put down your guns, join us in peace.”

Members of the East Flatbush Village, the Arc of Justice and the God Squad set up on the corner of busy Utica and Church Avenues on the night of July 3, where they gave out masks, preached to residents about non-violence. In reaction to the rising gun violence, the Haitian Nurses Network also gave a tutorial on emergency gunshot wound treatment.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams joined the groups calling for a cease fire and to ‘put down your guns.’ But he said the answer is not more police, but this community needs “jobs, they need housing, they need these organizations to get additional money who speak directly to the community.”

“Any community that depends solely on the police for these issues, we are bound to have problems so everybody in the community needs to do what you can where you are,” Williams said.

He was also clear on the violence.

“To the young people, our communication doesn’t have to be just violence, our communications doesn’t have to be just guns,” he said.

Randolph Waterman, executive director and c0-founder of the East Flatbush Village, said “our community has been traumatized and in order to combat that trauma, we need to be able to walk around and see people face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and be able to talk to them about the challenges we have in the community and the challenges they might have that are a challenge in the community.”

“A lot of time the trauma exists not because something has been done to them, and now it is reflected back into the community,” he said. “This is a way for us to get to the bottom of that, ask any questions, get resources to them, and prevent those traumas from impacting the larger community. Some people have been impacted by gun violence and the sad part is, they are actually using gun violence against someone else.”

Waterman contrasted gun violence with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, calling shootings a “social pandemic” that must be “addressed holistically, piece by piece.” The only way out of it, he believes, is by bringing “as many people at the table without limitation, without politics.”

Monique Waterman, a co-founder of EFV and a member of the Arc of Justice, said services and resources are need to combat the problem.

“We have these hot spots of gun violence and drug use, so we have these conversations about how we can reduce the violence,” she said. “So when you talk to people in the community, they say they need jobs, resources, child care, food security, there’s a lot of health disparities. So when we are out here, we try to register people to vote, about the census. We are out here talking about it so the whole community can be part of the movement to reduce gun violence in the community.” 

Chidi Duke, program director of East Flatbush Village, was asked where gang violence orginates and what they can do. 

“Where does this problem originate from? A lack of resources, a lack of funding, a lack of people being able to reach the community,” Duke said. “So we are out here to make sure we’re listening to people on the streets and asking them what they need. … We are here to ask those questions and make sure we provide the resources that they need. Because without the resources, they go looking for it in other ways.”


As part of their training for responding to gunshot wounds, members of the Haitian Nurses Network demonstrated how someone can create a tourniquet to help stop someone from bleeding out of a gunshot wound to the arm or leg. 

Randolph Waterman said the training is necessary given “the trauma on the ground” resulting from the recent shooting spike.

“It is a war zone that we are in. I’m not trying to romanticize this. It’s sad,” he said. “We must take all the efforts and resources to deal with the roots of this problem.”