Days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, dozens gathered at vigils at Riverdale Monument and the Bronx County Courthouse tonight.
Standing beneath the tower at West 239th Street around 7:30 p.m., clergy from several local institutions took turns reading the names of the 49 victims of the Sunday attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, with vigil attendees chanting the word “love” after each name.
Leaders at both events mingled prayers with calls for action.
“As a person from the LGBTQ community, I want to thank you all for being here,” said Rev. Andrew Butler, the head of Christ Church Riverdale. “As people of faith, we are called to pray. But as God hears our prayers, God must be wondering what you and I are going to do to make a difference.”
He went on to call for a ban on assault rifles like the one used in the Orlando attack, in which the perpetrator died in a shootout with police.
Earlier in the evening at Bronx County Courthouse, Audrey Dejesus, whose cousin Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez died in the attack, made brief remarks to a group of about 75 gathered in front of the building’s steps.
“I am the Bronx. I represent the Bronx... I'm going to Orlando tomorrow to help my family take his body... I'm speechless,” she said before walking away from the podium in tears.
In an interview after speeches from officials including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and City Advocate Letitia James, Ms. Dejesus voiced a defiant stance.
“My heart is filled with pride right now because New York itself is showing... that we are not tolerating gun violence anymore,” she said. “These assault rifles have to come off the streets. We have to keep on calling these politicians and telling them, no more.”