One day after hundreds gathered in Times Square in reaction to the latest wave of murderous mass shootings, anti-gun advocates and elected officials held an evening vigil at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope on August 5 to speak out against the violence, white supremacy, and racist rhetoric coming from President Donald Trump.
“White supremacy is not a mental illness!,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James, a former Brooklyn city councilmember and city public advocate, in response to Trump focusing on mental illness as a root cause of the violence earlier in the day. “These people are emboldened by racist rhetoric from the highest office.”
James’ comment referred to the fact that Patrick Crusius, arrested in the shooting in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 and injured dozens others on August 3, had posted an anti-immigrant screed online warning of an “Hispanic invasion of Texas” shortly before his rampage.
But the attorney general also spoke about the failure of Congress to enact meaningful gun regulation, saying of the Republican Senate majority that they are “feckless do-nothings that have no spine!”
In impassioned remarks, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said, “This shit is real. This country has a demonic obsession with guns!”
Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel said that gun registration should be renewable every three years, just as car registrations must be renewed. Citing Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, Siegel said those in his party who fail to call the president out are “complicit.”
At a May rally in Panama City Beach, Trump laughed as a crowd member shouted, “Shoot them,” in response to the president’s question about how the flow of migrants at the Southern border can be stemmed. “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement,” Trump said jocularly.
“I don’t want to hear anymore, ‘Is Trump racist?,” said Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents portions of Queens and the Bronx. “He is!”
Ocasio-Cortez’s statement echoed comments by former Representative Beto O’Rourke, who had represented El Paso in Congress. The Democratic presidential hopeful’s pithy, impatient response to reporters’ questions about Trump’s racial attitudes over the weekend drew wide attention.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, also raised the issue of a mass shooting that killed one and injured 11 in the Brownsville neighborhood on July 27, arguing that the official response to violence in black and brown neighborhoods is not what it would be in more affluent white areas.
“If it had been Park Avenue and not Park Place, there would have been a very different reaction from the city,” Adams said.
Saying she was “tired of going to vigils,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul got choked up recounting the story of a woman killed in El Paso while shielding her two-month-old baby.
Jay W. Walker, an activist with Gays Against Guns, spoke late in a program started at 7 p.m. and ran well past sunset.
“I’m happy to go at the end of the program, because you all still here are the fighters,” Walker said.