Thursday early evening, close to 300 local residents, elected officials, clergy members and representatives from at least 20 different anti-violence community groups gathered at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue to participate in a peace march and prayer walk.
The event, called “Peace Over Violence March,” was organized by City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, following the shooting of Clinton Hill resident Carey Gabay at a pre-dawn celebration of the West Indian Day Parade in Crown Heights.
Cumbo organized the peace march a few days after the shooting, and Gabay died of his injuries on Wednesday, ten days after the parade. Although, unfortunately, violence at the annual parade had long ago become routine and (dare we say) almost expected, what made Gabey’s death so poignant was his public visibility: He was an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
No longer was the victim an anonymous “black kid from the hood.” This time, it was an public figure who fell victim to the parade’s wonton violence. So, community leaders decided to take to the streets of Crown Heights for, yet, another march.
But how would this march be different than any other anti-violent march, after which time, the violence continued?
Cumbo offered an answer, just before the start of the march:
“Anytime there’s a loss of life, the first call of order is healing. And together the community has to send a message that this level of violence is not condoned. It’s not tolerated. It’s unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, through this tragedy and because of Mr. Gabay’s credentials, it has brought national attention to this, and I find that right now, the conversation is much different. What’s different this time is the level of meetings that have taken place before this march surrounding this issue… We’re now looking to organize a meeting with Borough President Eric Adams, as well as the commissioners across the city’s departments to make sure that all of them that can have an impact on gun violence absolutely have.
“We’re also going to be calling on our state representatives to increase S.N.U.G. funding, which is funding towards the anti-gun violence initiative. Right now, the entire the entire state is funded at a paltry $2.9 million. When it was originally funded in 2009, it was at $4 million. That’s still not enough. But we’re going to be advocating and having serious discussions about increasing that anti-gun violence initiative funding.
“The other thing that I’m advocating for, and I believe we’re going to have some traction, is I’m meeting with the mayor’s office in developing a citywide anti-gun violence office to have these important meetings; to do programs like “Occupy the Blocks,” to have people get the mental health services that they need; to have people come in and do mediation. Because right now, it’s very piece-meal.
This is not about politics today. This is about the community; this about prayer and this is about mourning. And we have to come together at this time.”