“We should be able to go to school to learn and not worry about school shooters,” Long Beach High School junior class President Fiona Eramo told the crowd last Saturday.
About 500 people gathered in Kennedy Plaza for a rally to protest gun violence, in solidarity with students at more than 700 similar demonstrations across the country. The event took place in tandem with the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of people gathered to advocate for stricter gun-control legislation.
Organized by Eramo, former City Councilwoman Fran Adelson and Board of Education Trustee Darlene Tangney, the rally took place from 2 to 4 p.m. outside City Hall.
“Schools are supposed to provide a safe environment, and the fact that anyone can walk into a school with a gun is just bizarre,” said Long Beach High sophomore and student body Treasurer Layla Hakimzadeh. “Enough is enough. It should’ve ended in 1999 after Columbine. It should’ve ended in 2012 at Sandy Hook. It should’ve ended after Parkland, but instead, this issue has just continued to worsen. Now, mass shootings have become more frequent than ever, but it ends here. We will be the generation to stop this madness.”
Activists called on lawmakers to push legislation that they said would curb the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
The rallies came in the wake of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers and spurred a range of proposals to curb gun violence. In the days after the Feb. 14 shooting, student survivors took to national media outlets and announced their plans to march.
“The amazing people behind this march have asked for three simple things: pass legislation banning assault weapons, prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines and have fair and just background checks,” said City Council President Anthony Eramo. “I support these goals with my mind and my heart, but we know that’s not enough. We must also support those goals with our actions. A common phrase you hear is ‘Our children are the future.’ Well, if we want our children to have a future, the time to act is now.”
Students in the crowd were invited to speak at the lectern, and many of them — including students from Long Beach, East Rockaway and Baldwin — said they scan their classrooms for hiding spots when they enter in order to be prepared if a shooter were to penetrate school security.
“History has shown that young people are on the front lines of all social change that happens in this country, and today is no different,” said U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from Garden City. “The three letters that we’re going to take from today are R, E,V: register, educate and vote. Voting matters. You can vote people out, and REV can challenge the NRA without one penny being spent.”
Long Beach student activists also took part in a national school walkout and gun violence protest on March 14, organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, when about 400 students exited the high school and stood in silence in the football field bleachers for 17 minutes to honor each of the Parkland shooting victims.