PHILADELPHIA — As part of the 22-city National Day of Protest, some 200 people spilled into an intersection here for a noontime rally against gun violence, Aug. 28. The crowd assembled near Colosimo’s Gun Shop where 263 guns linked to crimes had been purchased.
A line-up of speakers — including local clergy, parent activists who had lost children to violence, community leaders, elected officials and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson — decried the growing “culture of death” in urban communities and the uncaring lack of response by state and federal governments. Many speakers linked the billions of dollars spent on the Iraq war to the lack of attention to the needs of Philadelphia and other cities.
In 2006, Philadelphia had 406 homicides, most the result of gun violence. The majority of both the victims and the perpetrators were African American males between 14 and 24 years old. The crisis continues with 271 murders and over 800 shootings in 2007. The U.S. has half of all the guns manufactured worldwide, with 90 guns for every 100 people — men, women and children.
The crowd heard heartfelt appeals from members of Mothers In Charge, a parent group whose children were victims of gun violence. Some speakers pointed to the soaring youth unemployment rate and the number of guns flooding the city. In a poll of students aged 8 to 15 years of age, over 50 percent said they knew where they could get a gun.
“A young man needs a tool in hand” instead of a gun, said Bilal Qayyum of Men United for Better Philadelphia. “We must fight the jobs battle as well as the gun battle.”
Rainbow PUSH and the Brady Campaign chose Aug. 28 for the protest because it was the 44th anniversary of the March On Washington for Jobs and Justice. “We can’t achieve Dr. King’s dream of what America can be when we lose 32 people daily to gun murders,” said Paul Helmke, Brady Campaign president.