Hailie Kim and Amit Sing Bagga, candidates for City Council District 26, hosted a vigil on Monday, April 19, in Sunnyside for the victims — a large portion of whom were from the Sikh community — of the FedEx mass shooting in Indianapolis.
Sunnyside residents, elected officials and several candidates for New York City Council gathered at Noonan Park holding up posters with the images and names of the eight victims, including four of the Sikh community, whose lives were allegedly cut short by 19-year-old Brandon Hole, a former FedEx employee.
According to news reports, Hole, who legally obtained the two assault rifles used in the attacks, had allegedly browsed white supremacist websites in the past.
Bagga pointed out that, once again, innocent Americans lost their lives to gun violence, hatred, racism and xenophobia.
“We stand here today to honor everyone who was killed, but also to recommit to a fight against racism, to a fight against xenophobia, to recommit to fight against the disinformation-fueled hate that has become a tumor that is metastasizing across the brains of our nation,” Bagga said.
Hailie Kim said that they have been to too many vigils in recent months, but, still, nothing was being done, pointing to the endless and unsuccessful discussions about gun reform whenever a mass shooting happens.
“We’ve been for years and years talking about the need for stricter gun control laws throughout the country. And it hasn’t happened. Why? Because of politicians who want people’s votes. People who are pro-gun, people who may have these different perspectives from this. So their desire for power matters more to them than the lives that are lost through gun violence,” Kim explained.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that Americans are obligated to come together in solidarity and push back every single time an act of hatred is committed. He had a message for racists and homophobes:
“Those who believe that it is okay to punch, spit on, curse at or shoot to death someone simply because of who they are, we say to them, ‘No more.’ This is not right. We will not stand idly by and allow you to kill our brothers and sisters because of who they are,” said Van Bramer, a candidate for Queens borough president.
Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander, who is Jewish, recalled how he felt when he learned about the Tree of Life murders in Pittsburgh.
“The idea that a gunman would target your people for murder just changes how you think about what kind of place the world is and how you’re vulnerable in it,” the NYC comptroller candidate said.
Harpreet Singh Toor, who led the community in prayer, said he knows firsthand what discrimination feels like.
“As you can see, I always joke around that once I have my turban on my head, I become invisible because I’m more visible,” Toor said, while adding that he been told in the past to remove his turban and shave off his beard if he wanted to work.
“We are all equal. We should be respected. The freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of what you believe in. It should not be just the words. It should be practiced day in day out by everybody. And we need to work together to make this place a much better place,” said the City Council candidate for District 23.
After a moment of silence, a few community members shared their thoughts and feelings about the recent events.
Stephanie Chauncey was visibly moved when she spoke to the group, reminding everyone how vital solidarity and healing were during a time of constant upheaval.
“My heart, it’s touched because there are so many challenges in this world today. It’s hard to heal when you have so much going on, but we need to start here, we need to start together,” Chauncey said. “If we start unifying and we start loving each other, healing will come. My heart goes out to everyone’s family that has experienced loss or any kind of tragedy. I just say to the world, ‘peace, peace be still.'”