Photos by Alejandro Alvarez
Article by Caleb Vinson and Alejandro Alvarez
Videos by Ford Fischer
FAIRFAX, Virginia – Gun reform activists, led by women’s’ activist collective Codepink, held a night-long vigil on July 21 at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association amid calls for new rules on guns after the Orlando massacre.
About 20 members of Codepink were arrested during an organized action on Tuesday morning, which included a “die-in” in the middle of the roadway leading into the NRA. A night of remembrance, call for action, and lost sleep came ended with a $80 fine from Fairfax police which many of those arrested welcomed with open arms.
Among the gun reform activists was the cousin of Juan Guerrero, one of the victims of the Orlando massacre. When asked about his involvement with the protest he stated that “He [Juan] didn’t deserve this.”
In the backdrop across the street was a large, LED-lit display reading “Stand for Orlando” facing the NRA’s headquarters, which stayed up for most of the night.
The first phase of the night featured guest speakers and an open-mic session. One woman – a member of the Muslim community – urged activists to believe in humanity and “reach out to the good people” she says remain in the world despite violence.
Across the street, NRA supporters held their own candlelight vigil honoring the 49 killed in Orlando. When asked about Codepink, one member said, “They’re a circus, not a vigil.” Codepink would hold its own vigil later that morning, after the NRA supporters dispersed.
At 9:20 a.m., around 20 of the advocates were arrested for blocking the entrance to the NRA headquarters. Prior to the arrest, the activists clenched hands and proclaimed, “It is time to stop being held hostage by the NRA.”
Many of those arrested had died their hands red, signifying “the blood shed by the NRA,” and laid themselves down with chalk silhouettes that resembled those of bodies at a crime scene.
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Alli McCracken, National Director of Codepink, noted that the protest was “a powerful symbolic gesture… [that] could create a mass movement for sensible gun legislation.” When asked about the NRA members who threw a counter-protest, McCracken noted that they “…came to our peace vigil armed… sending a clear message to us that they want to live in a world full of weapons.”
On Monday, the United States Senate voted to strike down four proposed gun control measures, including increased funding for background checks and requiring background checks at gun shows. The legislation was rejected on party lines. Pew research polling suggests that the majority of Americans supported many of the proposed laws.