Residents of Crown Heights walked together on Thursday evening in a peace march to end gun violence, but also to call attention to increased safety in the neighborhood in recent years.
Approximately 70 marchers congregated on the north side of Eastern Parkway and Utica Avenue at 6:00pm. With many young participants carrying posters that said “DON’T SHOOT. I want to grow up,” the march proceeded along Eastern Parkway and concluded with a ceremony in Brower Park.
According to the Crown Heights Mediation Center, which had organized the march, gun violence has been on the decline in the neighborhood in recent years. Project director Amy Ellenbogen said there have been only nine shootings so far this year in the jurisdiction of the 77th Precinct, compared with 10 last years. “But it is still nine too many,” she said.
“Over the past 10 years, there has been a 16.7 percent decrease of victims and a 28.6 percent decrease of shooting incidents”, Ellenbogen said. The number of fatalities due to gun violence according to Ellenbogen in the 9 incidents this year and 20 last year totaled 5.
“Gun violence has been at a historic low at the 77th precinct this year,” said Executive Officer Myrie, a police representative at the event. “New residents coming into to community should be more aware of the situations”, explained Myrie.
Danny Dickson, a 41 year old resident of Crown Heights and a shooting victim who uses a wheelchair, said, “I’m trying to save our streets. Trying to talk to the young youth.” Of his own wounding, he says, “I got shot. I’ve been in the (wheel)chair for 17 years. It didn’t kill me but made me stronger,” he said. He said the dispute that led to the shooting began “over words”. “It didn’t have to go that far, but it did”, said Dickson.
Ryan Emanuel, a 12 year old resident, said he was in the march “for the safety of the streets and to make peace.” He said a 40 year old man who lived in his building got shot four times in the head on Christmas Eve two years ago.
Bishop Roberto Jemmot, of Nazareth Christian Fellowship, said, “We’re influencing young people in our church. We’re trying to mold their lives and teach them nonviolence, which is the principle of Christ.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz was also present at the event. “A few anti-social deviants should not bring a lack of calm and respect to the neighborhood,” he said. “There is no question that there has been an increase in gun violence in New York City over the past year or two”, Markowitz said. “Part of it is because of the increase in unemployment rates. Part of it is easy availability of purchasing of guns. In some neighborhoods it is easier to buy guns than books in Brooklyn and New York City and that’s sad.”
Residents at the march want to see positive changes in their neighborhood and many hope that Thursday’s event will help spread the message. The purpose of the event according to the S.O.S team and representatives of the 77th precinct was spreading awareness about reducing numbers in neighborhood shootings, as well as awareness about streets in Crown Heights becoming safer for its residents.
Other speakers at the event included City Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Eric Adams. There was a strong presence of members of the S.O.S. (Save Our Streets) Outreach Team, whose antiviolence methods focus on making personal contact with at-risk young people.
Many marchers carried S.O.S. posters and the S.O.S. volunteers also distributed plastic badges reading “I SUPPORT S.O.S.”, for participants to pin onto their clothes. One resident waved a placard he had made himself which read, “In violence we forget who we are!!”