Following the recent outbreak of gun violence in Brooklyn and across the city, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams launched a week-long gun violence awareness campaign on Monday featuring an open casket filled with photos of the victims of recent shootings.
The launch was full of moments of drama — from the moment the borough president and five other men solemnly carried the casket to the entrance of Borough Hall, to an outburst from a man angry about shootings of police, to interruptions from desperate mothers begging Adams to help their children.
Adams and the other speakers at the press conference rolled with the interruptions, citing them as examples of a hurting city, and urging those with a beef to “come act together to find a solution.”
Pointing to the coffin, Adams said, “Our communities are lying in state. Nine people were shot in East New York and over 20 across the city over the weekend.” One young man in public housing died, he said.
Adams explained his “Take Five to Stay Alive” plan. The five steps include, in part:
– Say something. Don’t call it “snitching,” call it leadership.
– Search your surroundings for guns, including your own home.
– Speak to Washington about cutting off the gun pipeline to NYC.
– Speak to Albany and ask them to support Operation SNUG and the Safe Weapons Storage Act.
– Ask the city for $10 million to support on-the-ground organizations doing anti-violence work.
Councilmember Jumaane Williams (Flatbush, East Flatbush) called gun violence a pandemic and said society’s structural deficits overlap with a lack of personal responsibility to put guns in the hands of young black men.
Williams pointed to the money and expertise going to fight terrorism since 9/11, though only 74 citizens were killed by terrorists since 2001. He contrasted that to the 150,000 people shot and killed by guns since 9/11. Williams said that only a fraction of the money going to fight terrorism is going to solve domestic gun violence. He joined Adams in calling for a halt in the gun supply chain to the city.
The press conference was interrupted more than once by desperate residents asking BP Adams for help with their problems. One woman jumped in front of the cameras and pleaded for help for her autistic son, who, she says, is getting attacked by bedbugs in his public housing apartment.
After staff members calmed the woman down and brought her inside Borough Hall, Adams said his staff would try to help the woman.
He also said he would help another mother who told him she needed money for clothing for her foster child. “I’m going to go inside and write that check,” Adams told reporters.
A man, angry about the exclusion of photos of police officers among the pictures of gun violence victims, yelled at Adams, “Are their pictures in there? You’re a hypocrite!”
Adams responded that “All lives matter,” and invited the man to come in and contribute his ideas toward a solution.
During the press conference, an adorable Leilani Charlery, 8, holding an umbrella against the brutal sun, climbed up to the casket and took cell phone pictures of the photographs of the gun victims lined up inside it. Reporters scrambled to take her photo.
Speakers from organizations asking for more funding from the city and Washington, D.C. included Andre T. Mitchell, executive director of Man Up Inc.; Michael Tucker, founder of Lay the Guns Down Campaign; Tony Hubbard; and Kareen Nelson, who represented Wheelchairs Against Guns.
The open casket will remain at Borough Hall all week as a reminder of Adams’ plan of action and to solicit comments from residents who have ideas to combat the violence.