Residents and elected officials took the streets of Brownsville back on Monday following a weekend shooting that killed a 38-year-old man and injured 11 others.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Brownsville Recreation Center on Linden Boulevard Monday evening for a rally and march against gun violence. The crowd chanted "Brownsville in, violence out!" as speakers demanded justice.
"We are very upset and we want to turn our community back on its feet. … Brownsville doesn’t deserve to be on its back," Andre Mitchell told the crowd. "We want to make sure that we get through the rest of this summer in peace. This is a call for peace."
Some of the speakers called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare Saturday’s gunfire a mass shooting.
"Even though the mayor has said this doesn’t amount to a mass shooting we know this is a mass shooting. I have never seen 12 people shot in Brownsville at one time," State Assemb. Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn) said. "It’s time for the madness to stop. … Declare this a mass shooting."
The demonstration came just two days after gunfire erupted at the Brownsville Old Timers Reunion Night block party, an extravaganza filled with music, dancing and entertainment held every year at a playground near Christopher and Hegeman avenues. The party capped off a weeklong series of events celebrating the neighborhood.
Jason Pagan, a 38-year-old who lived just blocks from the shooting, was killed, police said Monday. Seven men and five women, ranging in age from 21 to 55, were also shot, according to police.
Brownsville resident Otis Walls, 76, had just finished a motivational speech on the stage at Saturday’s event when the shooting broke out.
“We have people in the community that are concerned and we want to make sure everyone knows what’s going on,” he said of Monday’s march, adding that the area around the playground isn’t known for crime. “This spot was always peaceful. It was always happy.”
One gun was recovered at the scene, but police believe there were at least two shooters involved. No arrests had been made, as of Monday evening, but investigators were eyeing whether gang activity contributed to the shooting.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said a number of those wounded had what he called “gang histories,” although he wouldn’t elaborate, and Pagan was a reputed member of the Bloods street gang.
The march was organized by the Brownsville Rapid Response Coalition, which formed in the wake of Saturday’s shooting. The group brought in a therapeutic services bus, which offered counseling to people who were traumatized by the shooting, along with a handful of booths manned by anti-violence and community justice organizations.
Rahson Johnson, program coordinator for Save Our Streets in Crown Heights, said it’s important for the community to unite around those dealing with trauma.
"After mass shootings in neighborhoods, we tend to forget that people are traumatized and need therapeutic services," Johnson, 44, said. "We can come out here and march and protest gun violence, but we need to give people situations where they can heal."
Brownsville’s Old Timers Reunion Night, in its 56-year history, had never seen the kind of violence that broke out on Saturday, officials have said. Organizers of the march vowed the annual event would return next year.
With chants of "Don’t shoot, I wanna grow up," the crowd marched in a loop around Brownsville starting at the recreation center. They solemnly walked up Rockaway Avenue to Pitkin Avenue and then back down Mother Gaston Boulevard to the recreation center.
Afterward, a vigil was held for the victims and families affected by Saturday’s shooting.
With Anthony M. DeStefano