PATERSON, NJ - Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh was joined by community activists, still grieving mothers, and others on the steps of Paterson City Hall on Saturday to call on lawmakers to bring an end to gun violence.
The event, part of the national movement known as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, came just one day after communities across the country the observed National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Like so many others, the Saturday event brought attention to the call for the enactment of national gun violence laws while wearing bright orange t-shirts emblazoned with their simple, yet lifesaving, demand: END GUN VIOLENCE.
The effort comes at a time when residents of the United States are 25 times more likely to be shot than those in any other developed nation, Christine Hall of Moms Against Action’s Wayne chapter said. Referencing the startling number of mass shootings that have occurred in the past several years, she said that her group is advocating for new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize safety.
During his comments, Sayegh, wearing an orange tie in solidarity with those gathered, referenced the tragic deaths of three Paterson young people in less than ten months, in 2014-2015.
“We lost 12-year old Genesis Ricon to gun violence while she was riding her scooter,” Sayegh said. “Then, the aspiring, young basketball player 14-year old Nazerah Bugg was taken from us. Finally, we lost 15-year old Armoni Sexton who was also headed toward a great basketball career.”
Sayegh punctuated his speech by expressing gratitude to the members of Moms That Demand Action and said, “I am a dad that demands action.
“Guns don’t grow legs,” Sayegh continued. “We are committed to stopping the illegal flow of guns into our city. We can’t place all our problems on the police. That is why there are organizations like CeaseFire,” he said in a nod to the local organization, led by Rev. Allan Boyer who was also in attendance.
“Last year, in Paterson, there was a decrease in homicides but an uptick in shootings,” he added. “Along with the Paterson Police Department, we have started a quality of life program which will help get guns off the street,” the city’s chief executive said in reference to an initiative announced just the day before.
Dellwanna Miller, whose 27-year-old son Jaleek Burroughs fell victim to gun violence in August, 2014, was also in attendance.
“My son was wanted to work in aviation at Teterboro Airport. He was working toward that goal,” Miller said. “He was a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School.
“I am committed to helping those who have lost children to gun violence,” she offered. “I try to be there and share my story about life after losing my son.”
The stories of heartache and pain from gun violence continued, including from lifelong Paterson resident Michelle Hughes who said she was in attendance to honor her nephew, Ismail Walker, struck down by a bullet in 2014 at just 25 years old, and 60-year-old Howie Fertig who delivered moving testimony as a survivor of gun violence.
“I grew up in Hollis, Queens, in New York City,” Fertig told the audience. “My parents owned a store in Flatbush, Brooklyn. On October 23, 1976, I was a college freshman and my father was shot to death during a holdup. My mother was seriously injured, but survived. I had to go home and tell my 10 and 14-year old sisters that our father had been killed.”
Fertig said that when he first attended a Moms That Demand Action meeting, only three months ago, a lady shared her story which he said was strikingly similar to his.
“She had the same experience that I had and the impact on her family was the same,” Fertig stated. “Anyone here today who has been affected by gun violence is welcome to attend our meetings. We are committed to advocate for sensible gun legislation and responsible gun ownership.”
Fertig also said that Moms That Demand Action can make referrals to provide any survivors of gun violence with free counseling.
With the rally over at least two members of Paterson CeaseFire, Odell Lashley and Patrick Cawley, shared that they know the hard work to end gun violence locally continues, and vowed that they would continue their efforts walking neighborhood streets in Paterson’s six wards to serve as a deterrent to crime and to get to know, and be role models, for young people.
Click here for more information about Moms Demand Action.
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