Norwalk councilwoman Nicol Ayers speaking at a vigil Wednesday. She said hate will not prevail in Buffalo, Norwalk or anywhere. Jessica Bravo / CT Mirror

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and other Norwalk leaders held a vigil on Wednesday honoring the victims of a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., vowing to call out racism and do more to prevent racist attacks. 

“We need to do everything within our power to denounce racism, to call it out wherever we see it and make sure that we eradicate it,” Duff said. 

Duff said Connecticut has made an effort to stop racist attacks. Connecticut passed legislation this year that identified racism as a public health emergency.

He also said that gun control policies and the recent passing of mental health legislation should also help.

Duff said he wished Congress would pass legislation similar to what Connecticut has done and that stronger nationwide laws would make it harder for people to move guns between state lines. 

“Connecticut is the fourth safest state in the nation,” he said. “And we have seen a reduction in gun violence since the Sandy Hook tragedy because of the laws we passed” since then.

More than 100 people attended the vigil on the Norwalk town green. Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, members of CT Against Gun Violence, local religious leaders, board of education members and city council members were in attendance. 

Councilman Greg Burnett, who is Black, said he would have been a target if he had been in that grocery store in Buffalo during the attack.

“How many senseless shootings will it take before real action is taken to address this?” he said. “We must be more proactive in ending these violent attacks against people of different races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, as well as the LGBTQ+ community. The time to act is now.”

Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, said that Black and brown people are disproportionately affected by gun violence and Black men are 39 times more likely to be a victim of gun violence in Connecticut. 

State Rep. Travis Simms, who is Black, said gun violence has affected his family greatly. His older brother was shot and killed on Christmas Day in 2007. Then his twin brother was shot on their 18th birthday and survived. 

“We have to make sure we are pushing our legislators and our representatives up in D.C. to put together reforms that’s really going to address these issues that we’ve been dealing with,” he said. 

Kara Nelson Baekey, a board of education member and founder of the Fairfield County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said she got involved with gun violence prevention activism after Sandy Hook. 

“But the fact of the matter is there were a couple of people who were shot in the streets of Hartford that very same day [the day of the Sandy Hook shooting] that nobody paid any attention to,” she said. “That is happening every day here in Connecticut and across the country.”

Baekey said “racism is still very alive and well in this country”. 

Stuart Garrelick, a longtime Norwalk resident and grandfather, said he had “grave concerns” with the country he’s leaving his grandchildren in. 

“We need our elected leaders to do more than make speeches but to give us actions that can take place and not have vigils every other week,” Garrelick said.

Jessica is CT Mirror's Emma Bowen Foundation general assignment reporter for the 2022 / 2023 academic year. She is currently a senior at Central Connecticut State University pursuing her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She also works at her school’s newspaper, The Recorder, and peer mentored first-year undergraduates at Central. Jessica is a Connecticut native through and through.