CONCORD, N.H. — Students across northern New England put their feet down and lifted their voices up to declare “enough” and demand action to end gun violence Saturday.
In Montpelier, Concord, Portland and other locations, young people joined hundreds of thousands of their peers and supporters in participating in “March for Our Lives” rallies in response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Outside the New Hampshire Statehouse, organizers offered assurances that a window overlooking the crowd from the Episcopal church next door was being opened not by a gunman but to allow the sound of ringing bells to be better heard. After the bells tolled 17 times to mark the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17-year-old Leeza Richter read a letter to one of the Parkland shooting victims, saying she has been filled with regret since seeing a photo of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg.
“Your photograph sits on my shoulders,” she said.
Richter, a senior at Concord High School, said last week’s school walkouts were about grief, but Saturday’s rally was about change.
“Our government will do more to stop us from walking out than it will to stop a gunman from walking in,” she said.
In some of the biggest youth protests since the Vietnam era, protesters called for such measures as a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-type rifles like the one used by the Florida killer, tighter background checks and school security, and a raising of the age to buy guns.
“I think it’s going to convince the governor and maybe the president that we should not just have people randomly buying guns,” said Finn Debeckers, 12, of Chester, New Hampshire, who carried a sign he had drawn inspired by a political cartoon. It showed a golden scale labeled “our needs” with “school safety” outweighing “NRA cash.” At the bottom, he wrote, “ENOUGH” followed by four exclamation points.
In Vermont, about 2,500 people attended the rally at the Statehouse in Montpelier. In Maine, police closed an eight-block section in downtown Portland.
In addition to students, participants included every age group from toddlers to senior citizens using walkers and wheelchairs, the Portland Press Herald reported .
“It is up to our generation — the mass-shooting generation — to make the change we need,” said organizer Hamdia Ahmed, 19. “We have a right to go to school without being afraid.”