May 31, 2023

“Wear Orange” Event in Princeton June 2 Part of National Effort to End Gun Violence

By Anne Levin

When stalking in the woods, hunters wear orange to protect themselves. On Friday, June 2, sponsors of an event on the plaza outside Witherspoon Hall are hoping a lot of people will show up wearing orange, to symbolically protect themselves and others from the gun violence that is rampant throughout the country.

The 1:30 p.m. gathering is part of a national effort designed to honor those affected by gun violence and elevate efforts to prevent it. Mayor Mark Freda, Princeton Police Sergeant Dan Federico, and Princeton resident Portia Wong, of the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action, will be on hand to deliver a proclamation and talk about how to help address the issue.

Moms Demand Action is hosting the event in partnership with the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. As he did last year, Freda will read a proclamation declaring June 2 to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Princeton.

“I don’t know if you are aware that more than 120 people are shot and killed in the U.S. every day,” said Wong, a mother of three who started volunteering with Moms Demand Action after the killings at a school in Uvalde, Texas last year. “I just couldn’t sit by any longer,” she said. “I wanted to add my own voice to the effort. I noticed there were other towns in New Jersey doing this, and Princeton didn’t have an event scheduled. I asked Mayor Freda to do a proclamation, which he did last year.”

In New Jersey, guns are now the second leading cause of death for children and teens, according to gun safety advocates. Freda’s proclamation declares that America must do more to combat this public health crisis, to reduce gun violence of all kinds, and promises “to renew our commitment to reduce gun violence and pledge to do all we can to keep firearms out of the wrong hands, and encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep our children safe,” according to a release from Moms Demand Action.

Friday’s event is the first of Wear Orange, an annual weekend in June that unites communities across the country in efforts to fight for a future free of gun violence. In addition to those shot and killed every day, the initiative honors those who are wounded by the violence, as well as those who bear witness.

The idea of wearing orange dates from January 21, 2013, when a 15-year-old girl named Hadiya Pendleton marched in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. One week later, she was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago. Soon after, her friends commemorated her life by wearing orange. The observances have been held every June since then.

“We don’t have to live like this,” said Wong. “We can push back. It’s really impactful for people to realize the ripple effects of these efforts. It’s important for our children to see that people around them want to keep them safe.”

Freda will sign the proclamation declaring the first Friday in June to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Wong is hoping that members of Princeton Council will also be on hand for the ceremony, as well as members of the public.

“What it really boils down to is if you’re fed up, wear orange and come join us,” she said. “We can demand a future free from gun violence.”