Laurence Fine, of Students Demand Action, speaks during a Gun Violence Awareness Rally in Ridgewood on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
Michael Karas, NorthJersey
Though the towns are vastly different in many ways, residents in Ridgewood and Paterson assembled in their respective communities to raise awareness about an issue that affects people everywhere – gun violence.
The “Wear Orange” movement first came to life in 2013 when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago just one week after performing at President Obama’s second inaugural parade. Her friends wore orange, her favorite color, to raise awareness.
Six years later and 900 miles away, students, elected officials and community volunteers came together for the second year in a row in Ridgewood to listen to community leaders speak about gun violence issues near and far.
Catherine Brienza, an organizer, spoke about the mass shooting incidents that have made headlines throughout the country but noted that these aren’t the only issues that should be focused on.
She brought up continued legislative battles about gun reform on topics such as background checks and magazine capacity.
The Rev. Bruce Ballantine of the First Presbyterian Church noted that 1.6 million Americans have been killed as the result of gun violence in the United States in the past 50 years.
“Help us to comprehend the full measure of this carnage,” he prayed.
About 30 people attended a rally outside Paterson City Hall and decorated the building with orange ribbons. Among them was Dellwanna Miller, whose 27-year-old son Jaleek Burroughs was killed in 2014 after gang violence erupted in the city’s 1st Ward. Burroughs was an innocent bystander.
Miller pleaded for an end to violence in the city and nationwide.
“What people don’t realize, at the end of that gun that they choose to shoot, there’s a mom like myself,” she said. “If I can take one gun out of a child’s hand, I’ve already saved two lives. I’ve saved theirs and I’ve saved the person they tried to take out.”
Ridgewood Mayor Ramon Hache brought up the shooting that occurred in the village nearly 30 years ago at the post office. In October 1991, a fired postal worker killed two people after fatally shooting two other people in Wayne.
Andrew McDade has kids in the village high school and thinks that events like this are “the least we can do.”
“We have to do something to effect change,” McDade said. “It is just so obvious that we are on this ridiculous path that we have to leave.”
Another resident, Chelsea Beser, said that she came out to continue to show support about stopping gun violence.
“I want to show my support for this so that it stays important and doesn’t lose momentum,” she said. “The only way to make change is to get involved and be active.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Brienza.
“This is an issue that I’m afraid is going to get buried,” she said. “This needs to be an issue with a pulse. We need to keep the focus on this.”
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