Gays Against Guns, other advocacy groups and activists, and elected officials held a demonstration in Times Square on August 4 to protest gun violence just hours after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio and one week after a separate mass shooting in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
The demonstration drew more than 200 marchers voicing a sense of urgency during a horrific weekend of gun violence across the nation. In one mass shooting, a racist white man who posted online about an “Hispanic invasion of Texas” entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas on August 3 and opened fire, killing 22 people and injuring more than two dozen others. Just hours later — shortly after 1 a.m. local time on August 4 — a gunman donning a mask and a bulletproof vest used a .223-caliber rifle to kill nine people and injure 27 others in Dayton, Ohio, before police killed him.
The shootings occurred just as New Yorkers were standing up to the July 27 gun violence in Brooklyn, where 11 people were injured and one person was killed by two shooters at a block party at Mendoza Park in Brownsville. The violence continued on August 5 when four people attending a vigil in Crown Heights were injured in a shooting around 1:50 a.m.
Protestors in Times Square focused on the legislative inaction of Republicans who have continued to stand by idly amidst mass shootings that have on a number of occasions been carried out by shooters who are racist white men. The demonstrated chanted, “GOP, NRA – How many people did you kill today?”
“This is an epidemic and we all know why,” said MaryEllen Novak, an activist with Gays Against Guns. “People with influence are puppets to dark money. People like Massacre Mitch and Leningrad Lindsey and Ted Cruz and so many others who earned NRA A+ ratings have clearly traded the country’s soul for their selfish interests and greed.”
Mom’s Demand Action, Community Free Democrats, Everytown, and March for Our Lives were among several other groups on hand at the demonstration. West Side Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams were also present.
“We have a Republican Party and a president who are glad to be NRA lapdogs,” Nadler said. “And what is Moscow Mitch doing about it?”
Nationwide, pressure has continued to mount on Republicans to move on gun violence. President Donald Trump, who spent his weekend crashing weddings at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club while Americans voiced desperate pleas for action against gun violence, invoked gun control in a scripted speech on August 5 but presented a conflicting response to the issue.
The president called for laws to make sure those who pose “a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms,” but then went on to deflect the role of guns in shootings, saying that video games contribute to mass shootings and that “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.” In an early-morning tweet on August 5, he said, “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.”
Gays Against Guns’ Virginia Vitzhum said during the Times Square demonstration that Trump is to blame for encouraging a climate in which white supremacists feel free to act out with gun violence.
“He cannot call these deaths what they are because he is complicit,” Vitzhum said. “And so are the Republicans who stand by and let him endanger immigrants, people of color, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, poor people.”
Gays Against Guns, formed in the aftermath of the Pulse massacre in 2016, will be joining Adams, Youth Over Guns, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and others in a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. on August 5 to remember the lives lost in recent mass shootings. That event is slated to take place at 7 p.m. at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.