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Sunset Park students rally to end gun violence in wake of Christchurch shooting

“Enough is enough.”

That was the message on Friday as dozens of Sunset Park High School students took to the streets in solidarity with victims of the March 15 terror attack in a Christchurch, New Zealand mosque which left 51 people dead.

The students called for an end to gun violence in the country and beyond.

“After the shooting, I was just so emotionally impacted by it and people around me were
just so sad,” said 17-year-old Kadijah Yudeh, who organized the protest. “It sickened me to see all of it.”

Yudeh saw on social media that various schools would have a walk-out on Wednesday in support of New Zealand, but no one at her school took part.

“So I said I’ll plan it,” she said, adding that she went to her history teacher for suggestions. The first contact she gave Yudeh was Linda Sarsour’s.

“I wrote her an email and I didn’t expect her to answer, but she said she’d be there,” Yudeh said. “After she answered that’s when the whole process started. I emailed students and staff.”

The student was surprised by the turnout.

“A lot of students came which is surprising and shows, as a community as a whole, how we come together,” Yudeh said. “It went way beyond my expectations.”

Sarsour, a political activist who was born and raised in Sunset Park, spoke to passionate protesters in the schoolyard and explained the significance of rallying during school hours.

“Last Friday, 51 people that looked like me, that looked like these sisters over here, that looked like these brothers that are your classmates, were murdered in a mosque,” she said. “A white supremacist walked into a mosque while people were praying on Friday and he shot women and men and children that were there with their parents. This is a white supremacist who wrote a manifest.

“He was inspired by the white supremacist that we have in the White House now,” Sarsour went on, “so these 51 people may have been killed somewhere far away but this is all connected.”

She then discussed banning assault rifles in the country.

“What did the country of New Zealand do? Immediately, they banned assault weapons,” Sarsour said. “There’s no reason anybody has to have weapons of mass destruction or weapons of massacre in their arms here in the United States of America.”

Students shared personal experiences, speaking of fear, strength and hope.

“On Friday, I was so nervous to go out after hearing what happened to my Muslim brothers and sisters in New Zealand,” said student Zaina Saleh. “I didn’t want to cover my hair. I was so nervous. I thought that something was going to happen to me and on the same day, I came to school and my friends — the people here — told me that this is a safe community. [They said] ‘We accept you and you don’t have to be scared to cover your hair, to wear a gaya, to rock your flags or of where you came from.’”

“When things happen to each and every one of you, we will take a stand for you no matter how unsafe you may feel,” said student Yassin Hamad. “There are people here to stand up for you. We should all stand as one and become one within ourselves and bring up each other as a community in Sunset Park.”

Sarsour encouraged the students’ sense of unity.

“What I hope you get from this experience is that you commit to standing up against anyone who is using hateful words against a group of people,” she said. “We need to come together to make sure we are all safe. Muslims deserve to be safe in our mosques and communities. Black people deserve to be able to walk in their community safely. Women deserve to walk in their community safely. Undocumatend people deserve to live in our country safely.”

“All of us are here today because we are made of love,” added student Brooklyn Tejera. “So I say hold on and fight and pray just a little longer.”

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