Held in response to the the sniper attack that killed 59 concertgoers and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas Sunday night, the event ended with a shared lighting of candles. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
Once again, Red Bank area residents gathered for a march and vigil Wednesday night to protest senseless, gun-related violence in America.
This time, the brief event, attended by about 50 participants, had a more consistently political, rather than spiritual, tone.
“I’m tired of praying for destroyed lives,” Rabbi Marc Kline, of the Monmouth Reform Temple, told the small crowd as the sky darkened. “It’s time to pray for the destruction of the weapons that destroyed those lives.”
Noting that he grew up in Las Vegas and that his mother lives just blocks away from the site of Sunday’s massacre, Kline mused that Americans should pack the halls of Congress for a sit-in that lasts until laws that address the easy acquisition and transport of firearms are enacted.
“There’s no humanity” in proposed legislation that would increase the use of silencers and force states that don’t allow the carrying of concealed firearms to do so for visitors from states that do, he said. “The only ones who need silencers are hunters who are hunting people.”
The event began, as have similar vigils over the past 16 months, with a march from Pilgrim Baptist Church south along Shrewsbury Avenue to Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Park, at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard.
Local faith groups and elected officials have held similar events in the wake of a violent radical-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August; the killings of five police officers in Dallas in July, 2016; the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a month before that; the murder of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina in June, 2015; and the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.
Mayor Pasquale Menna attended, as did three council members: Republicans Linda Schwabenbauer and Mark Taylor and Democrat Ed Zippich. Zipprich’s running mate in the November election, Michael Ballard, was also present.
Menna, joining ministers of several faiths, addressed the argument that the immediate aftermath of a gun-related tragedy is not the time to talk about gun control.
“Now is the time to talk about it,” he said, later apologizing for “being a little bit political.”
“It is time for good people to rise up and tell their elected officials in Washington that enough is enough,” he said. “There is no need for this excessive force in our society.”
“The ‘right to bear arms’ is a corporate ploy to keep us shooting at one another,” said borough resident Birgit Mondesir, representing the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission.
“It’s a disgrace the our Congress doesn’t support us the way it supports the NRA,” said Sid Bernstein, co-founder of Citizens for a Diverse and Open Society. “I wonder whose pockets their money goes into.”
Pilgrim Baptist pastor Terrence Porter said he would steer clear of politics, leaving that to others, and after a candle-lighting, concluded the ceremony by asking everyone in the audience to turn to a stranger and say, “I love you.”
“Doesn’t that feel good?” he asked, as the crowd followed his suggestion.