The effort for change continued this past weekend. On Saturday, March 24, over a million Americans participated in the March for Our Lives rally across the country to protest gun violence and advocate for stronger gun control.
The March for Our Lives demonstration is the second nationwide protest in a month. It followed the National School Walkout, which took place on Wednesday March 14, one month after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people with an AR-15 assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.
Major U.S. cities such as New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles had thousands of people protesting. Out of the many people protesting around the country, nearly 8,000 individuals rallied in the Hudson Valley on the 1.5 mile long Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York.
According to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park representative Dale Prager, there were officially 7,819 people who attended the rally on Saturday. The March for Our Lives Hudson Valley Facebook page said that the goal of the rally was to “Give Hudson Valley citizens the opportunity to show support for the Parkland gun violence victims and survivors.” The main organizer of the event was SUNY New Paltz alumni Steven Spicer ’82 who is also currently the principal of the John L. Edwards Primary School in Hudson, New York. Overall, Spicer viewed the protest as a success.
“With the protest, we were able to achieve our two main goals. The first, was giving the people of the Hudson Valley a chance to join the national March For Our Lives with their own march across the Walkway Over The Hudson,” Spicer said. “Our second goal was to put our local elected officials on notice to either enact sensible gun legislation to keep our children safe or we will vote you out. The very least that any citizen of this nation can expect is for their children not to be killed by gun violence while at school.”
Spicer gave credit to other organizations that co-sponsored the Hudson Valley protest for the event’s success.
“The march having a reported 7,819 attendees was an overwhelming success,” Spicer said. “But the success of the march was largely do to the efforts of a 13 organization coalition along with the the Poughkeepsie Mayor, Poughkeepsie Police Department, the State Park Police and the Walkway Across The Hudson Organization.”
Some of the 13 organizations that co-sponsored the protest include Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley, Arts for Peace, the Dutchess County Interfaith Council, Hudson Valley Strong, Move Forward New York and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
SUNY New Paltz psychology professor Glenn Geher is a founding member of the organization Move Forward New York. Geher was satisfied with the turnout of the rally.
“It was a great rally with a positive energy, and the attendance was better than I thought it was going to be,” he said.
According to Geher, Move Forward New York was formed in November 2016 after the election of current President Donald Trump. The organization seeks to promote social justice, preserve civil rights, and to ensure environmental conservation by encouraging participation in the political process on all levels through education, collaboration and activism. Gehr pointed out that the protests not only happened in the United States, but they also occurred around the world.
“After Saturday’s demonstration, I was talking with a neighbor of mine who had just gotten back from France and she showed me pictures of people protesting gun violence,” Geher said.
There have been multiple photos circulated showing European cities such as Paris, Rome and London with signs protesting gun violence
Sarah Kozloff is the Dutchess County Team Leader for the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence organization. Kozloff was also blown away by the final attendance.
“I was expecting a few thousand people at the most to attend, but hearing that nearly 8,000 people attended far exceeded my expectations,” Kozloff said. “It shows the determined and optimistic spirit of the people when it comes to the issue of gun violence.”
Kozloff mentioned how she got over a thousand signatures while at the protest that advocated for state legislators to pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill (ERPO), which is something that the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence organization has been advocating for.
According to its text, the ERPO bill would prohibit individuals from purchasing or possessing guns if a court finds that they are likely to harm themselves or others. Orders could be requested by family members or local law enforcement — who often see the warning signs of gun violence.
There is both a state Senate and Assembly version of the bill working its way through the state legislature (S.5447/A.6994). The Assembly bill is sponsored by former state assemblyman and current state senator Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan. While the bill has passed in the assembly, it has yet to pass in the Senate. Kozloff believes that the bill passing would be a step in the right direction for decreasing gun violence.
“While it wouldn’t completely stop gun violence, I believe ERPO has great potential to stall gun violence if passed,” Kozloff said. “We (New Yorkers Against Gun Violence) plan to go up to Albany to keep lobbying for this legislation to pass.”
SUNY New Paltz student Ellie Condelles also attended the march at the Walkway. One thing that stuck out to Condelles was the amount of hunters she saw at the march advocating for gun control.
“People who hunt aren’t thought of as people that would want the second amendment reformed,” Condelles said. “I think that’s a misconception as there were hunters who were marching and supporting gun control.”
Looking back on the march, Condelles is positive that there will be action taken on gun control.
“The march was so great and inspiring,” Condelles said. “It gives me a lot of encouragement that something is going to change,” she said.
Kozloff believes that the protest showed the spirit of those who want change to happen.
“The protests demonstrated the determination and passion that people have to make change happen when it comes to gun violence and gun control.”