Members of various churches and synagogues protested gun violence in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, wielding signs that read, “Ban assault weapons now" and “Lord, make us instruments of your peace."

About 60 people marched down South Street and joined a chorus of demonstrators singing spiritual songs as onlookers cheered. The event was organized by Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit.

Organizers emphasized that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough, and that members of faith-based communities must mobilize to urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to enact gun control policies. The event follows a summer of mass shootings in Texas, Ohio, and elsewhere, which spurred new pushes for gun control in Washington this month.

Friends and members of the Mother Bethel AME and other congregations take part on a walk to honor those lost to gun-related homicides and to demand stronger and more effective gun laws and regulations. Sunday, September 29, 2019.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Friends and members of the Mother Bethel AME and other congregations take part on a walk to honor those lost to gun-related homicides and to demand stronger and more effective gun laws and regulations. Sunday, September 29, 2019.

Demonstrators gathered at Mother Bethel AME Church at Sixth and Lombard Streets before heading down South Street to St. Peter’s Church at Third and Pine Streets. At St. Peter’s, organizers designed a memorial to commemorate the lives of people killed by shootings in Philadelphia in the last year. Colorful T-shirts — which each had a handwritten name, age, and date of death — were hoisted onto poles and rooted in the grass behind the church. The victims ranged from age 14 to 66.

“Gun violence touches all of us,” said the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, Mother Bethel’s pastor. He said it’s a particularly significant issue in Philadelphia, pointing to a shooting at a high school football game Friday night that left two teenage boys injured.

The event culminated in a reception at St. Peter’s, where people enjoyed baked goods and signed letters urging lawmakers — including U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, from Pennsylvania — to pass legislation such as universal background checks on firearm purchases and an assault weapons ban.

Friends and members of the Mother Bethel AME and other congregations hold hands Sunday before taking part of a walk to honor those lost to gun-related homicides and to demand stronger and more effective gun laws and regulations.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Friends and members of the Mother Bethel AME and other congregations hold hands Sunday before taking part of a walk to honor those lost to gun-related homicides and to demand stronger and more effective gun laws and regulations.