Gun Control Protesters Take Over Downtown Northampton in the March For Our Lives

“Enough is enough! Enough is enough!” Hundreds of voices echoed off of the brick and concrete buildings that line Northampton’s Main Street. They were the voices of adults and teenagers, gathered together and united to bring an end to gun violence in America.

The March For Our Lives in Northampton on Saturday was a part of a coordinated day of action, organized and hosted by high school students around the country. Locally, marches were held in Springfield, Pittsfield, and Amherst. Across the globe, in cities like Paris, London, Madrid, and Tokyo, people took to the streets in solidarity.

The march in Northampton was organized by Pioneer Valley Students for Gun Control, a coalition of students from 15 schools around the Valley. Ben Moss-Horowitz and Cherilyn Strader were the two lead-organizers.

Saturday’s march kicked off from Northampton High School on Elm Street at noon amid chants of “Hey! Hey! NRA! How many kids did you kill today?” and “Stop the silence! End gun violence!” Protesters and their supporters then traveled just over a mile to Northampton City Hall on Main Street. Sometimes the chants were led by organizers with bull-horns; others chants were organic, rising up from the marchers themselves.

At the steps of city hall, student organizers gave speeches, musical acts sang protest and peace songs, and acts of remembrance were held for those who died in the Parkland, Florida school shooting and other shootings across the country.

Moss-Horowitz said he’s been in touch with State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, and that the long-term goal of the protests is to spur changes in gun control laws in Massachusetts. Strader distributed lists of lawmakers for people to call, and later broadcasted to the crowd a live phone call to State Rep. Robert DeLeo.  Strader, however, did not reach DeLeo’s office.

“It’s an amazing turn-out,” Moss-Horowitz said. “It’s validated my belief that people are behind us.” He estimated that there were approximately 1,600 people who came out to participate.

Annalie Gilbert Keith, a 17-year-old senior at the Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield attended with her friend Laura Franseschi, 18, from Gill.  Keith was optimistic that the nation-wide, student-led movement would have a lasting impact. “It’s a new wave of people fighting,” she said.

Christina Shepperd, a parent with a group of about 20 students from West Springfield, Turners Falls, and Greenfield, said, “We’re here to support these kids. This generation is going to be the tipping point.”

Students stage a “die-in” on the steps of Northampton City Hall. Photo: Sarah Heinonen

While many of the marchers were there out of solidarity with gun-violence victims or a desire to stop future shootings, some were survivors, themselves. Anna Heights, 45, was caught in a drive-by shooting at the age of 15 while living in California. “This stuff stays with you,” she said. Her sign read: “I survived gun violence and all I got was this lousy PTSD.” “It’s been 30 years. I just can’t let it go,” she said.

The pain and loss of those who have experienced tragic shooting were not lost on Madigan Terhner-Kolodziejski, who marched with her dad, Dennis Kolodziejski. She recognized that gun owners have a right to enjoy their hobby but said, “Their happiness at shooting a gun,” isn’t worth it when, “compared to what moms and dads go through when they lose a child.”

Moss-Horowitz and a friend sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in memory of those who were killed in Parkland. Between the verses, they commemorated each of the 17 victims by reading a sentence about who they were, noting, “they deserve more than to be reduced to a sentence.”

Immediately afterward, the student organizers held a “die-in,” laying down and holding tombstone-shaped signs, each with the location and date of a shooting. The crowd largely knelt during the somber moment. Many wept silently.

Author: Sarah Heinonen

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