MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — A march and rally were held Monday in Manhattan to protest gun violence and honor the lives lost in a mass shooting in California over the weekend. It was organized by activist group Gays Against Guns.
Dozens gathered in Union Square at 5:30 p.m. Several people were dressed head to toe in white – the color symbolic of death in some Asian cultures. Grief and sadness were quickly coupled with outrage.
“As horrible as these moments are, they are opportunities to fight to get effect effective gun legislation passed through congress,” said Jay W. Walker, with Gays Against Guns.
“I’m marching because gun violence is a public health crisis and this is just another dramatic horrible event in our ongoing crisis,” said Dr. Sonni Mun, a volunteer with organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
The group marched nearly 2 miles in solidarity, down to Kimlau Square in Chinatown.
Under the statue of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius, they called for peace and humanity and change.
Advocates from the local Asian American community also spoke out to remember and honor the lives lost. The death toll has now gone up to 11 in Monterey Park, California, a primarily Asian neighborhood near Los Angeles. Authorities have said the victims are all in their 50s, 60s or 70s. The 72-year-old accused gunman is of Asian descent, making it even more painful for the community.
“You don’t expect something like this to happen, especially from somebody within your own community,” said Derrick Leon, executive director of Asians Fighting Injustice. “He did it during the biggest holiday for the Asian community and did it when his victims had their guard down.”
The gunman opened fire inside a ballroom dance club during a Lunar New Year celebration Saturday evening. Police later found the suspect dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a van about 30 miles away from the scene.
Monday afternoon, law enforcement authorities assured the public that even with the suspect deceased, the investigation will continue, but we may never know the full story.
“I think we all want to know why,” said Chief Scott Wiese with the Monterey Police Department. “We all want answers to questions that we may never have answers to.”
The mass shooting has sent a wave of fear over Asian American communities nationwide and cast a shadow over new year festivities.
“On a day we’re all supposed to be outside and being joyous, and celebrating new beginnings we are back to these emotions and feeling anxious and fearful yet again,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation.
In addition to the 11 dead, at least nine more were injured. Police are still searching for a motive for why the gunman went on the rampage.