Dozens of Brooklynites marched through Bedford-Stuyvesant to call for an end to rampant gun violence on June 29.
“I don’t want people to wait until someone they know is the victim of gun violence to start doing something about it,” said Nathalie Arzu.
The rally, which was organized by anti-gun violence group Save Our Streets, featured several keynote speakers, including Arzu — who told the assembled crowd the tragic story of losing her brother Jose in 2011 to gun violence in the Bronx.
“My brother was killed at the age of 16 when he was walking his girlfriend home, and two men approached him and shot him 15 times. The paramedics did everything that they could, but he died,” said Arzu.
Since her brother’s tragic death, Arzu has worked with groups like Save Our Streets and Moms Demand Action to help pull communities away from a culture of violence.
“It’s about being empowered. There’s a lot of people that are causing harm in our communities, and it’s systematic. In our communities, there’s a lot of issues that are the core causes of gun violence, whether it’s housing or whatever,” she said. “There are a lot of people in gangs, and they don’t want to be, but they don’t know anything else and they don’t know how to get out.”
Arzu also uses her story to help heal communities that have been ravaged by bloodshed.
“It’s about helping people who have been affected by gun violence find help, but it’s also about people who haven’t lost someone, and teaching them how to be there for those who are suffering,” she said. “It’s about building more of a community.”
The demonstration was partly spurred by the recent shooting of an 11-year-old boy, who was caught in the crossfire of a gun violence incident in Crown Heights on June 20.
Arzu said she hoped people would find empathy and motivation to organize against the presence of weapons on city streets.
“This may have not been your child, but it was someone’s child,” she said. “We need to come together to build this community.”