Cornellians and Ithaca residents took part in the nationwide March for Our Lives protest on Saturday to speak out against gun violence in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting that took the lives of 17 high school students and faculty in February.
Roughly 200 Cornell students marched out from the Arts Quad around noon before traveling down to the Ithaca Commons area escorted by Cornell police, where the Cornell march merged into a larger local rally.
Organized just over a month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the march is part of a nationwide call for “common sense gun control legislation,” according to Stephannie Chen ’19, president of Cornell Roosevelt Institute, organizer of the march.
“No longer will America allow Congress to continue to send their ‘thoughts and prayers’ before shying away from the issue. No longer will America’s youth sit in silence while waiting for another tragedy to strike,” Chen declared in a speech.
Around one thousand Ithaca residents showed up to the rally, which featured speakers and nourishments and emphasized national unity rather than a particular policy prescription.
“Today is a show of solidarity, it’s not a discussion of policy or next steps. That will come later,” Chen said.
The protest was designed as a rally instead of a march so that people of all ages and abilities can participate, said Tompkins County legislator Amanda Champion, one of the organizers, in the event description on Facebook.
Many parents participated in the protest to advocate for the safety of their children, according to Gloria Lemus-Sanchez — a parent, one of the rally organizers and a student in an employee degree program at Cornell.
“I have two kids in high school and one in elementary school. It would be very nice to think it happens everywhere else and not here,” Lemus-Sanchez told The Sun. “I’m doing it to teach [my kids] what activism looks like and what it means to be proactive and care for your community.”
Lemus-Sanchez said she savored the intimate atmosphere that permeated the rally.
“It’s a feeling of being home,” Lemus-Sanchez said as she looked into the crowd. “It’s knowing that you’re there with people who are like you and think like you. You’re among friends. It’s a very empowering feeling.”
Chen, who is planning a follow-up discussion in April on developing policy proposals, saw the march and the rally as a stand against complacency and a way to increase people’s awareness of their role in influencing society.
“We’re really frustrated and upset at how gun violence has been talked about and talked about and really just talked about … Every time it feels like deja vu,” she said.
“It’s become really easy to be passive these days. You post on Facebook or you discuss with friends and then … you just move on with your lives,” Chen said. “With the march, we just really, really wanted people to … accept that … that this is something we can change and … affect.”