BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — There is something to be said for how easy it was to convince nearly 300 middle school students to leave their air-conditioned classrooms on one of the hottest days of the year – all to march for a cause they believe in: ending gun violence.
Students at the Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School took to the streets Friday afternoon in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, marching several blocks to Restoration Plaza in neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The march was one of many taking place across New York City and the country Friday in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
The color orange was chosen as a symbol of safety. It’s the color hunters choose to wear in the woods to avoid becoming a target. But for several students, including Lavon Walker, the outing was personal.
“I lost one of my loved ones to gun violence. My father. I want it to end right now,” Walker said.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said the number of shooting victims, regardless of age, continues to decline, from 544 victims in the borough last year to 189 people shot in the first five months of this year.
“In 2020 during the pandemic, I lost my brother to gun violence,” said Shamikah Kenlock, the school’s co-principal. “It’s in the media. It’s in the music they listen to. It’s in the video games they play, the movies they watch. I think it’s extremely urgent for our students to have a voice on this issue.”
To find out a big picture view of how gun violence is specifically affecting New York City’s youth, 18 and younger, PIX11 News reached out to the NYPD. That data is more concerning.
Between 2020, 2021 and 2022, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, the department documented a steady increase in the number of youth and teens getting shot.
“My cousin Daryll died about two years ago,” said student Jahmir Cayton. “And when I found out he died, it really broke my heart. I was so young at that age. I didn’t really know what was going on. And that really changed my outlook about gun violence.”