Organizers, Musicians Rally to Stop Surging Gun Violence

By David Brand

Early Wednesday morning, a man was shot and killed in Ozone Park. On Tuesday night, a father was killed in a drive-by shooting in Astoria. On Friday, a man was shot in the buttocks in Astoria.

Gun violence is on the rise across Queens, claiming more than 110 victims this year to date. To help stop the shootings and engage more residents, organizers in Astoria and Long Island City doing something about it.

 Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and Astoria attorney and organizer Andy Aujla speak at last year’s Queens Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. // Photo courtesy of Queens Concert Across America

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and Astoria attorney and organizer Andy Aujla speak at last year’s Queens Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. // Photo courtesy of Queens Concert Across America

On Sunday, local musicians will perform during the Queens Concert Across America to End Gun Violence at John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City. The event is part of a nationwide action to commemorate victims of gun violence, raise awareness about the shooting epidemic and raise money for 696 Build Queensbridge, an anti-violence organization based at the Queensbridge Houses.

“Everyone is affected by gun violence one way or another,” said lead event organizer Andy Aujla, an attorney from Astoria and a member of the Powhatan and Pocahontas Democratic Club.

This is the second year in a row that Queens has hosted a Concert Across America event. This year’s concert comes amid a startling surge in gun violence throughout the borough.

As of Thursday afternoon, there have been at least 88 recorded shooting incidents in Queens in 2018, according to the NYPD’s CompStat data. That number is an increase from 81 shootings that were recorded during the same time period last year.

In Queens North, shootings are up 22.2 percent since last year.

The number of gunshot victims in Queens has also increased significantly this year compared to 2017. To date, 111 people have been shot in Queens in 2018 compared to 90 during the same time period last year.

In Queens North, 31 people have been shot this year compared to 20 last year, an increase of 55 percent. In Queens South, 80 people have been shot this year, an increase of 12.7 percent.

“While there are many issues affecting our nation currently, gun violence often takes a back seat except immediately following a tragedy,” Aujla said. “By having this event, we are raising awareness to this issue which affects Queens much like the rest of the U.S., and calling for effective, common sense, gun control measures in hopes of avoiding the next tragedy.”

 T-shirts from various anti-gun violence organizations on display at last year’s event. // Photo courtesy of Queens Concert Across America

T-shirts from various anti-gun violence organizations on display at last year’s event. // Photo courtesy of Queens Concert Across America

This year’s speakers include a transgender activist and a victim of domestic violence who will discuss the connection between gender-based violence, domestic abuse and gun violence.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assembly Members Aravella Simotas, Catherine Nolan and Brian Barnwell, and City Council Members Costa Constantinides, Rory Lancman and Danny Dromm have also expressed their support for the event.

Local musicians Amoeba Earhart, Luke Buck, and K Bain will perform, along with Cameron Nile, Xena, Minnie and Momo.

The concert raises money for 696 Build Queensbridge, which defuses conflicts, promotes health and education and strengthens the community the Queensbridge community.

Sponsors include Hearts Across Queens, the John Brown Party, Powhatan and Pocahontas Democratic Club, New Vision Democratic Club, New Queens Democrats, Taminent Democratic Club, Astoria Social, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence—NYC Chapter, Queens County Young Democrats, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and Aliadxs.

“It is unbelievably inspiring to see so many organizations coming together for this event, especially with our current political climate, where each day there is a new pressing issue,” Aujla said. “However, we can’t ignore that even after so many preventable mass shootings and calls for change, approximately 12,000 victims are killed with a gun each year.”


 A member of 696 Build Queensbridge speaks at last year’s concert.

A member of 696 Build Queensbridge speaks at last year’s concert.

Concerts will take place simultaneously in Williamsburg, Midtown Manhattan and several other locations nationwide. The concert series culminates with a performance and demonstration in Parkland, FL, where a shooter killed 17 students in February.