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Artists Wield Chalk as Weapon Against Gun Violence

WASHINGTON — Eddie Weingart witnessed his stepfather shoot and kill his mother when he was 2 years old. The gun was turned on him. But a gun malfunction spared his life. Weingart said he vowed to devote his life to preventing his tragedy from happening to other people

“There are so many people in this country that have not been affected by gun violence, but the sad reality is that a lot of us are,” said Weingart, the founder of Project End Gun Violence.

On Sunday, he joined about 100 other artists and activists in a flash-mob style performance against gun violence at the Lincoln Memorial. At precisely 12:45 p.m., the participants, organized by the group Art=Ammo: Artists Against Gun Violence, gathered by the memorial’s reflecting pool and raised their arms. Passersby watched solemnly as the demonstrators slowly lay down on a large canvas on the ground. They proceeded to trace each others’ bodies with chalk, and then wrote inside the outlines names, dates and words associated with victims of gun violence.

The event was organized by actress and choreographer Lorin Latarro, who felt compelled after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., to address the destruction of gun violence. She chose to use flash mobs because she wanted to change the minds of strangers on the street. Latarro organized a similar flash mob in New York City’s Times Square on Feb. 24 before coming to Washington, D.C.

“This combines something visual, something visceral and something literary,” said Latarro. “And I think it hits people in the gut.”

At around 1 p.m., participants, tourists and onlookers gathered around the chalked area and reflected on the body outlines, numbers and words. One participant, Bridget Smith, said she was overwhelmed by the experience.

“It’s hard to keep back tears when you participate in something like this,” Smith said. “It’s solemn. It feels like a ritual. It feels very important and it brings thoughts of loved ones killed by guns.”

Latarro said the chalked canvas will be sent to the Senate. But she hopes the flash mob will leave a lasting impression on the witnesses.

“Maybe somebody would just look at that as an example of what’s happening in our nations everyday,” she said. “When you see it visually, it might changed your mind.”

Art=Ammo plans to travel to different cities to perform the demonstration in the next couple of months. The next flash mob against gun violence will be April 27 in Boston.