Photo of Olivia Broderick, a sophomore at North Haven High School
It was a cold, March 24, Saturday in front of the state capital and Bushnell Park in Hartford Connecticut. People filed in with placards for the March for Our Lives rally and march, one of many that took place across the United States, the largest in Washington D.C. spawned after the Parkland school shooting and organized by the teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school where the carnage occured. In the five years since the Sandy Hook shooting, there have been 200 school shootings. Students, teachers, politicians and activists came together to make their statement enough is enough.
“When we had the women’s march [January 20] we didn’t think we’d see anything like it again but look here today,” said Mayor Luke Bronin of Hartford. “The time to change has come. Parkland called BS on the NRA,” Bronin said.
“We shouldn’t have to worry about guns. We should worry about getting good grades,” said Olivia Broderick, a sophomore at North Haven High School.
“I heard on news that this is the largest protest march in history, bigger than Vietnam. That’s really amazing,” said Heather from Newtown Action Alliance.
“I’m a teacher and a mom and grandma. There have been too many active shooter drills and none of it protects students,” Laura Sorenson said with tears.
“I believe school safety should not be a political issue. There is not a left or right school. This is our future. We not only want to get comprehensive bills in Congress but to leave with stronger community we are creating,” Tyler Suarez, organizer of the Hartford March for Our Lives and the nephew of Dawn Hochsprung, the heroic principal killed at Sandy Hook. “Change is coming and it starts now inspired by and led by kids.”
The most powerful voices were the students both speakers and in the crowd. “I fear one day I will walk into school and not walk out,” said Isabel Siegel of the CT Teens Against Gun Violence which she founded.
“I have a message for Donald Trump. This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like. Mr. President, lead or get out of the way,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) “I have never received a contribution from the NRA and have gotton an F rating for 30 years. My message for the NRA is to break its grip on Congress.”
Politicians reminded the crowd that Moms Demand Action has 4 million members and is gaining a stronger voice than the NRA.
Erica Lafferty, daughter of the late Dawn Hochsprung, spoke about what it was like to publicly grieve and made a call to action for change.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) wore an NRA F-rated pin and said “We are bigger and badder than the NRA ever has been. Vote them out! Democracy doesn’t allow for 97 percent of Americans not to get there way.”
A quick search of twitter shed light on the mental health component to this issue. With better gun legislation, many more suicides will be prevented. “May we all remember that nearly two thirds of all gun fatalities are suicides—making suicide the primary reason that gun control is indeed a mental health issue in the United States,” tweeted Melody Moezzi, author, attorney and activist.
Jeremy Stein, executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, called for people to address the problem of urban violence as well. “Hartford gun violence existed well before Sandy Hook,” he said.
Sheila Cohen president of the Connecticut Education Association, said “Educators stand in solidarity with students. Gun violence transcends race, age, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation.”
“We are not just marching for lives lost. We are marching to prevent the next tragedy,” said Will Haskell, running for 26th district CT State Senate seat and is only 21-years-old. He encouraged if people want real change to vote in November. “Don’t tell me to pray. Help me to act. Don’t tell me to wait. Time for reform was yesterday.”
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, state senator Beth Bye and others also attended and spoke.