South Orange and Maplewood residents gathered at the Maplewood Train Station on August 5 to remember those whose lives were lost to gun violence in recent mass shootings across the U.S. — and to rally for gun reform.
In introducing the evening’s speakers, SOMA Action organizer Ritu Pancholy said that SOMA Action had worked to “flip” the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 election, resulting, she said, in the Democratic-led house passing “bipartisan legislation on gun control.” Pancholy called Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s decision not to bring that legislation to a vote “unconscionable.”
The frustration of many was expressed by one attendee who referred to the event as “yet another gun violence vigil.”
“We need to act,” said Maplewood Township Committee member Dean Dafis. “And there’s no better time than now.”
South Orange Trustee Bob Zuckerman offered this idea: “Everybody should adopt a Senate race” in the 2020 election, he said, in order to return the Senate to Democratic control and pass gun reform legislation.
Speakers included NJ Assemblyman John McKeon; Maplewood Committee members Dean Dafis and Greg Lembrich; South Orange Trustees Bob Zuckerman, Walter Clarke, Summer Jones and Donna Coallier; Springfield Township Committeeman Alex Keiser; South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education member Shannon Cuttle; and advocates and members of groups including SOMA Action, SOMA Action Student Leadership Committee, MOMS Demand Action, Students Demand Action and Gays Against Guns.
The tragic deaths in Maplewood this past weekend were also on the minds of many and were remembered in comments made by speakers at the vigil. Pancholy noted on Facebook: “SOMA Action recognizes that this weekend we lost two members of our local community. We do not have the family’s permission to organize and further want to recognize their privacy, but we note that we stand against all violence. We are incredibly saddened by everything that occurred this weekend here and in other states.”
The event was organized by SOMA Action members Ritu Sharma, Mia White, Rachel Fisher and Shannon Cuttle. Lily Forman and Zoe Newman of the SOMA Action Student Leadership Committee organized the student speakers.
Photos by Joy Yagid. Video by Stacey Gregg.