June is national Gun Violence Awareness Month, and people from across metro Detroit kicked it off with a “Wear Orange” rally in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue today.
Detroit City Council member Mary Sheffield spearheaded the event, which comes in the wake of a string of deadly shootings in the city. Eight people were shot to death over the Memorial Day weekend, and several more gun deaths followed this week.
Sheffield said the event was a “call to action” as the city heads into the summer months, when gun violence tends to spike. She admitted she “may not have all the answers,” but said this summer “cannot be business as usual.”
“While it is seemingly impossible to end the senseless violence committed by individuals who devalue human life, our response cannot and must not contribute to the normalization or acceptance of gun violence being a part of our society,” Sheffield said. “We must transpose the pain and suffering of the victims and their families onto our own lives. We must respond in a manner that says an assault on the life of one is an assault on the lives of us all.”
Some rally attendees wore pins that said “survivor,” indicating they have either survived gun violence or lost a loved one to it.
Andrea Clark wore one. She lost her son, Darnell, to a shooting in 2011. Since has since started the group Mothers of Murdered Children to counsel and assist families who lose loved ones to violence.
Continually hearing about more murders “drains me. It just sucks the life out of me,” Clark said.
“Because all I think about is the mother of those victims that were killed. So now I’ve got to prepare. I’ve got to strengthen myself so I can strengthen them, and walk them through this journey.”
Keri McFarlin was there with her three children. Her husband, Ricardo, was shot to death in Detroit over a year ago.
“It was the hardest thing that I could deal with as an individual, and then as a mother of three children, to be left behind, to do everything my own,” McFarlin said. “And my kids don’t have their father anymore. That is the most painful thing.”
The rally also drew in the student movement against gun violence that has arisen in the wake of recent school shootings. Students who organized and participated in events like the recent March for our Lives and a slew of school walk-out protests called for stricter gun control measures, and decried the influence of the gun lobby on lawmakers.
Zack Farah, 18, is a senior at Bloomfield Hills High School. He and a classmate attended the rally wearing t-shirts listing the names of the students killed in the February massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school. He was disappointed that more people didn’t come out for the event.
“We had a good-sized crowd, but this is way too big of an issue to have the size that we had here,” Farah said. “My neighbors, I know that they have people affected by this issue, and they need to come out here. It’s really just to honor the victims and to talk about solutions.”