Jamaica parents demand an end to gun violence

By Alex Robinson

“Enough is enough” was the message of dozens of relatives who have lost loved ones to gun violence in Jamaica Saturday afternoon.

The National Action Network, a civil rights organization with chapters nationwide, held a “lie in” demonstration in downtown Jamaica to commemorate those lost and to raise awareness of the issue.

“It is a shame that on a beautiful day like today, we have to be out here in our communities, telling our own people to stop the gun violence and to stop shooting and killing each other,” said Victoria Pannell, 15, president of NAN’s New York City youth chapter. “It is not the answer to settle beef or to solve arguments. All gun violence is going to do is get you 20 years to life and make some poor family go through the trials and tribulations of burying a loved one.”

Demonstrators lay across the road Saturday, temporarily blocking traffic on Parsons Boulevard in between Jamaica and Archer avenues. Among them was Kevin Livingston, founder of 100 Suits for 100 Men, an organization that helps convicted felons re-enter the job market.

“We’re tired of being reactive,” he said. “If we have to disrupt Jamaica’s economic engine to bring attention to the issue, it’s worth it.”

There have been 67 victims of gun violence in Queens South precincts this year so far and 658 shooting victims citywide during that time, according to NYPD statistics. This was a 9.5 percent citywide increase in the number of shooting victims from the same time last year.

Parents, siblings, aunts and uncles cried out countless names of those they knew who had died from gun violence.

“Since I lost my son, unfortunately, my circle of friends has become mothers that have lost their kids,” said Shenee Johnson, whose son, Kedrick Morrow, was gunned down in 2010. “The real question is not when are we going to stop the violence. The honest question to ask today if we don’t continue to do more, is who’s next?”

Morrow was killed following a dispute at a Springfield Gardens party, a month before he was going to graduate from high school.

Taylonn Murphy, whose 18-year-old daughter Tayshana was shot and killed in a Harlem housing development in 2011, attended the rally to show support for Queens parents who had lost children to gun violence.

“We don’t want anyone else to join the messed-up club we’re in,” he said.

Embattled state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and his challenger, former Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie, attended the rally and participated in the lie in.

“We are out here trying to stop the gun violence the way our ancestors fought segregation — only this time, we are doing the damage to ourselves,” Victoria Pannell said. “It is time for us to let young people know that picking up a piece of steel is not going to solve anything.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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