A Connecticut teen is organizing a march against gun violence in Hartford as a local facet of the national March for Our Lives.
Tyler Suarez, the organizer of the march is a freshman at the University of Bridgeport. He said he wanted to harness the momentum of student grassroots activism that the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida has inspired.
“I feel like it is a lot bigger now than it has been…the response that students are giving is a lot louder and a lot stronger than it ever has been,” Suarez said. “I feel like there’s just something in the air this time.”
Suarez said, when he heard that a march was being organized in DC on March 24 he wanted to make sure students in Connecticut who wanted to participate but would not be able to travel would be able to do so.
The Connecticut March for Our Lives will take place at the Hartford Legislative Building at around 12:30 p.m. on March 24.
In 2012, when Suarez was in eighth grade, his Aunt was principal of Sandy Hook Elementary when she was killed in the shooting.
“I knew going into this that we should do something in Connecticut because obviously Connecticut was directly impacted by Sandy Hook and that impacted my life,” Suarez said
Suarez said the Parkland shooting seems to have been particularly impactful for students as it highlighted the sense that students do not feel safe in their own schools.
“It’s not just the students who went to school in Parkland. When I went to high school I felt the same way. I was scared to go to school sometimes,” Suarez said. “Nobody can really argue the fact that children don’t feel safe at a school if they’re the ones saying it.”
Suarez said the primary goal of the march is to mobilize and empower students who often feel powerless to affect change.
Luke Anderson, a sophomore nutritional science and anthropology major said he plans to attend the march.
“I think it’s important, as a student who grew up in a time of regular lockdowns and legitimate fear of school shootings and bomb threats and yet still significant inaction, to show the current students of Parkland and schools everywhere that we stand with them,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he thinks the marches may help push lawmakers to enact meaningful gun control reform.
“I think with a good national turnout for the march, there’s no doubt that it will push them in that direction,” Anderson said. “It will, at the very least, continue this momentum that the public has kept up after the shooting in Parkland by forcing a serious conversation on the issue of gun control, an issue that has typically been avoided.”
Suarez said he is looking for young speakers for the event.
“I think it’s important to have students stand in front of the microphone because…a majority of the students don’t know where that microphone is,” Suarez said.
Suarez said he had an experience in high school that shaped his view of students’ ability to cause change when he worked with the Naugatuck Board of Education to implement regular active shooter drills.
“Being a high school senior and trying to change Board of Ed policy and having it happen…I realized you don’t have to be in a legislative position, you don’t have to have an office and a door with your name on it,” Suarez said. “You can just be a student and you just need to have your voice be loud enough for other people to hear.”
Suarez said he realizes gun control reform has the capacity to prevent future mass shootings, but is a lofty task to undertake and will take time. He said the immediate goal is to create a sense of community at this event
“I just want a day where people from all over the state, people from all different sorts of situations and walks of life to come together and stand next to a bunch of strangers who you know feel the same way about this as you,” Suarez said. “If one person can’t change something, let’s all come together, let’s all do it together.”