Jersey City community leaders and residents alike were among hundreds who peacefully rallied together around victims of gun violence to support families who were affected by the loss of their loved ones.
The candlelight vigil and rally showcased community members’ adversity from the gunfire that led to the death of Jimmy Gregory, 19, and 10-year-old Rayana Phillips who was shot in a vehicle on Van Nostrand and Ocean Avenues this past Easter Sunday.
The Street Crimes Unit officer spotted two suspects, Corey Pickett, 21, and Jonathan Ferrera, 21, on April 16th, approached the victim Gregory, then fired two handguns, according to the criminal complaint.
Gregory was pronounced dead at the scene and Phillips remains at the Jersey City Medical Center in stable condition.
During the rally, Pamela Johnson, the executive director of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement (JCACM), focused on the integration of all Jersey City Wards, as well as action from the city and state.
â€œThe first action is, no matter what ward you live in, no matter what neighborhood you live in you come out here and stand with us. Whenever weâ€™re out here trying to support families, and you take this initiative and you say that itâ€™s not their problem, but itâ€™s our problem collectively as a city,” said Johnson.
Along with Johnson, Michael Billy, an LGBTQ community leader, had a similar outlook on the uprising of gun violence, by urging the public to vote, and comparing Jersey City’s recent plague as a normalization of crime and murder.
“Weâ€™ve lost that connection to human loss. Weâ€™ve normalized murder. Weâ€™ve normalized violence. We struggle to put the words together. Puppy photosâ€”easyâ€”anti-Trumpâ€”you got itâ€”post 10 times a day. A child dies half a mile away from our homes and we struggle with the words,â€ said Billy.
“This is one city!” Billy repeatedly chanted, before elaborating on a prior rally held for immigration and Muslim neighbors, and a vigil held for Orlando’s LGBT community victims, which caused thousands of supporters to flood the streets of Jersey City at the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza last summer.
Unlike, previous events, thousands have yet to flood the streets for the city’s victims of reoccurring gun violence, according to Billy.
“We held a vigil for Orlando and thousands of people flooded the streets, we held a vigil, a rally for immigration and our Muslim neighbors and thousands of people flood the streets.”
“And a child dies less than half a mile from our homes and people struggle to share the event,” exlaimed Billy who also called upon the community to look beyond race, religion, sexuality, and gender.
Other speakers during the rally included: Rabbi Debra Hachen of Temple Beth-El, Bayside Park Neighbor Association founder Christopher Perez, Haven Adolescent Community Respite Center founder Amy Albert, Hessie Williams of A Mothers’ Pain, as well as Muslim community leaders.
Hosted by JCACM, and Bayside Park Neighborhood Association (BPNA), Perez mentioned how the technological error has polarized our neighborhoods, but the BPNA was established on the basis of unity and community involvement.
“Violence is infectious, but love is also infectious,” said Perez, noting positive alternatives for children addicted to violence.
Saturday, June 10th, at 9:00 a.m., JCACM, Citizens Against Violence (CAV), and National Black United Front plan to host their second annual Unity Walk starting at the intersection of McAdoo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and ending at Lincoln Park.