300 March in Nyack to Call For Gun Control Following Orlando Shooting
by Shauna R. Bahssin
Nyack, June 16 — “Our voices and tears are spilling out into the streets of Nyack and Rockland County demanding for our right to be safe,” said Brooke Malloy, the executive director of the Rockland County Pride Center, which opens in August. “The right to safe housing, safe schools and universities, employment, medical treatment and social services. The right to be safe to hold the hand of the person we love, or to be comfortable in the body that is our own. We have the right to live … We are a strong and resilient community, and we will not go away. This is our call to action.”
In the wake of the June 12 Orlando shooting which took the lives of 49 members of the LGBT and Latino communities, pride organizations around the U.S. have been encouraging recognition by organizing vigils for those lost in the violence. In Rockland County, these deaths have been acknowledged during two vigils, one in New City and Nyack on Wednesday and Thursday.
A crowd of 300 marched from Nyack’s Village Hall to the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Main Street on Thursday night. Community members and faith leaders representing Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths spoke at the gathering.
The Nyack vigil highlighted that mourning will not be enough to bring change to the LGBT community. As attendees stood under the Veteran’s Memorial Park’s gazebo to address the audience, people repeated over and over again that it is vital that community members are fully engaged about bringing about change, starting with a call to their local representatives and voicing their opinions over gun control and human rights.
“If you think coming here tonight is enough, I’m here to tell you it’s not,” said Grace’s Church’s Theresa Bergen. “Go home, pick up the phone, and make at least three phone calls. One, to NYS Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee. Tell her you want civil rights [for LGBT people].” Bergen suggested that rally attendees should also call Congresswoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-17th District) and US Senator Chuck Schumer demanding gun control reform.
The New City vigil on Wednesday was held outside of the Rockland County Courthouse to an audience of over 100 attendees and led by Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Penny Jennings, the Rockland County commissioner of human rights. Also present were members of the Volunteer Counseling Service (VCS) and Together Our Unity Can Heal, as well as religious figures from the community, representing St. Paul’s AME Zion Church, the New City Jewish Center, the Islamic Center of Rockland and Germonds Presbyterian Church. As each victim’s name was read, a bell was rung in their honor.
For the duration of the vigil in New City, LGBT activist Joseph Coe stood in front of the speakers, silently holding signs that stated phrases such as “Silence = death” and “Vigils are good, but will we ACT.”
“We can talk and have vigils, but I want to see what tangible things the county executive’s office will be doing to address the LGBT community,” said Coe. He believes that calling for a ban on assault weapons and comprehensive legislation that would protect LGBT people — including freedoms such as the ability to use whichever bathroom a person chooses — are important steps for the local government to take.”
Shauna R. Bahssin is an English major at Binghamton University