In Las Vegas’ Wake, Gun Violence Activists Mass in Manhattan

Several hundred activists affiliated with Gays Against Guns marched from Union Square to Times Square one evening after the shooting mass murders in Las Vegas. | DONNA ACETO

Gays Against Guns was formed in June 2016 in the wake of what was then the most lethal mass shooting in modern American history — the murder that month of 49 people and wounding of another 58 in an Orlando gay nightclub holding its weekly Latinx night. On October 2, several hundred activists affiliated with the group took to the streets in Manhattan to mark the sad fact that the Orlando massacre’s record had been broken, with the tragic murder of 58 concertgoers and wounding of nearly 500 others in Las Vegas the night before.

Gays Against Guns demonstrators in Times Square. | DONNA ACETO

The Gays Against Guns contingent met at Union Square at 6 p.m., and a half hour later began marching up Broadway to Times Square, where the demonstrators rallied at the Red Staircase.

Kevin Hertzog of Gays Against Guns told those assembled in Union Square, “We witnessed a public health crisis with AIDS” and responded with ACT UP. “We’re applying the same techniques to this public health crisis.”

The chants marching up Broadway ranged from the tragi-campy (“How many kids have you killed today? NRA sashay away!”) to the angrily blunt (“Fuck the NRA!”).

Terry Roethlein of Gays Against Guns spoke passionately in Times Square, saying, “There is a terror organization out there and it’s the NRA.”

He warned of the bills pending in Congress to expand gun rights, including the Reciprocity Act that would let gun owners from concealed-carry states bring their concealed weapons to states with sane gun control laws. And he decried the further militarization of local police departments being promoted by the Trump administration.

Public Advocate Letitia James. | DONNA ACETO

Public Advocate Letitia James, heralded for coming to most Gays Against Guns actions, read out the litany of mass shootings in recent years: “Charleston, SC, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now Las Vegas. How much more will we take before we have gun control? After you pray” for the new victims, she said, “get off your knees and demand responsible gun laws. Demand action!”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was shaking with anger as she said, “After Orlando, Newtown, and all the unspeakable tragedies we say, ‘Enough! No more assault weapons!’ That goddamned NRA is in our way! Fifteen hundred mass shootings since 2012.”

Brewer added, “We have the highest death rates by firearms in the developed world.” If gun control is “not done by us as a nation, it can’t be done.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Ken Kidd, a Gays Against Guns activist. | DONNA ACETO

The borough president also said, “Republicans will not act to save our children from guns. Get them out of office and the Democrats who vote with the NRA.”

Sonni Mun of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America marched with her son, Christian, age 10.

Sonni Mun of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. | DONNA ACETO

“No child should have to live through all these mass shootings,” she told the crowd. “It is unacceptable.” The time for action, she said, “is now!”

The day before the Manhattan action, as the Las Vegas concertgoers looked forward to what they thought would be an evening of outdoor music and fun, Gays Against Guns traveled by van to a gun show in Pennsylvania hoping to engage strong Second Amendment boosters on the facts of gun violence and the solutions before the American people. According to the group, it is the only gun violence group that has engaged those on the other side in this kind of direct dialogue that it acknowledges “can be uncomfortable at times.” But, the group insists, “this is what must happen if we want to change minds and save lives.”

The demonstrators in Times Square. | DONNA ACETO

Gays Against Guns meets next at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., on Thurs., Oct. 5 from 7-9 p.m. — Additional reporting by Paul Schindler

Kimberly Russell, an organizer of the January 21 Women’s March in Washington held in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration, addresses the crowd in Times Square. | DONNA ACETO

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, and veiled Gays Against Guns protesters representing those killed by gun violence. | DONNA ACETO

A sign that undoubtedly captured the feelings of many Americans this week. | DONNA ACETO