Sharpton and Parkland survivor announce NYC anti-gun violence rally

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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - A survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting joined the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday to announce a June rally in front of President Donald Trump's Manhattan apartment to protest gun violence eased by access to assault weapons.

Aalayah Eastmond, a junior at Stoneman Douglas High School, was at Sharpton's National Action Network in Harlem for the minister's weekly meetings.

Sixteen-year-old Eastmond was in class Feb. 14 when a gunman fired through a window, sparing her but eventually killing 17 people.

The June 2 rally - at the beginning of New York state's Gun Violence Awareness Month - is to start at Trump International Tower on Columbus Circle and proceed toward Fifth Avenue and Trump Tower, where Trump has an apartment that has been his longtime home.

For Eastmond, New York City is more than a prominent media staging ground. One of her family members was fatally shot here.

Fifteen years ago, "I actually lost my uncle to gun violence in Brooklyn," she said. "So for it to happen to me, in my face, that just shows that change has to happen now."

Sharpton said that young people leading recent activism across the country has produced what he called "a necessary marriage of dealing with gun violence as an American issue that jumps over the boundaries of any community and deals with America from every city."

Another Sharpton concern is how police handle interactions with the mentally ill. On Thursday, police fatally shot a Brooklyn man, Saheed Vassell, as he brandished what turned out to be a welding torch mistaken for a gun.

Among the June rally organizers is Ramon Contreras, 19, a senior at one of 11 NYC College Prep charter schools who lost a classmate to gun violence last October.

"He was only 17 years old," Contreras said. "The way it affected me, I was lost."

He said everybody wanted to do something, but felt "we didn't have the resources."

Last month, "the nationwide walkout gave us the courage, and pretty much the strength to say, 'Hey, enough is enough.'"

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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