After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in February that killed 17 people, Cornellians and Ithacans are voicing their outrage and mobilizing for change.
Amidst a wave of student protest surrounding gun control across the country, a group of community members is organizing a March for Our Lives Rally here in Ithaca.
“As a parent, I’m horrified by the idea that someone could walk into one of my kid’s schools and you know, kill them, that’s an awful thing,” said Amanda K. Champion, Tompkins County legislator and one of the organizers of the upcoming march.
According to its website, March for Our Lives is a national movement led by students “who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings.” In particular, the movement calls upon Congress to pass a comprehensive and effective gun control bill.
Champion, who organized the Women’s March in Ithaca last January, emphasized that the March For Our Lives movement is “really all about the students.”
“I think these students in Parkland who have been speaking and standing up against politicians and the NRA and they’re inspiring all of us,” she said. “We want to provide that opportunity here in Ithaca as well for students.”
Ithaca High School will be hosting a walkout this Wednesday to join this effort. The Cornell University Democrats will also be hosting a simultaneous walkout on the Arts Quad to stand in solidarity with the high school students.
“For a lot of us, we are not old enough to vote, and we can’t make our voices heard through that means,” said Megan Hay, one of the organizers of the IHS walkout. “Civil disobedience is a really good way to get attention because we can’t make our voices heard through polls and stuff.”
Champion also said that the fact that young people are leading this movement is part of what makes it different from previous instances.
“I think what’s maybe different this time is that it is the young voices who are standing up and saying ‘we’ve had enough of this,’” Champion said.
Ithacans are not the only ones taking actions. Alumnus John Zimmer ’06 is also using his position as co-founder and president of Lyft to express support for the #NeverAgain student movement, which calls for new policies on gun control.
In a statement addressed to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting took place, Zimmer and co-founder Logan Green said that the company will be offering free Lyft rides to students attending the March for Our Lives rallies in Washington, D.C. later this month on March 24.
Zimmer, who graduated from the School of Hotel Administration, worked at Lehman Brothers and founded Zimride before creating Lyft in 2012, according to his LinkedIn. The Lyft press team is yet to respond to The Sun’s request for comment.
“We believe there is something seriously wrong when the threat of gun violence is so frequent and real throughout our country. And like many, we are inspired by your leadership,” Zimmer and Green wrote in the statement. “We will continue using our voice and platform to encourage civic participation.”
For Evan Bynoe ’21, the issue hits particularly close to home. Although he did not attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he grew up in Parkland and went to the neighboring middle school and knew many people, including his sister, who attended the school.
“Seeing the response from the students, obviously this is a horrible tragedy, but at the very least there’s some hope coming out of it that something will actually change,” he said.
“I was incredibly heartened at least in a time when I was just depressed for a while, but at least I’m seeing that the students are banding together and really trying to make some positive change from this horrible situation,” Bynoe added.
Bynoe also commended the activism in Ithaca and said that people shouldn’t begin to care about an issue only after it happened to themselves.
“If we continue the way that we’re going right now, it could be Ithaca that’s next,” he said. “The fact that Ithaca is holding a March For Our Lives rally shows that we’re not just going to forget about it.”