Waving signs while chanting “enough is enough” and “not one more,” hundreds of activists rallied at the Connecticut State Capitol for Saturday’s March for our Lives.
The rally, one of hundreds held worldwide, featured speeches from politicians, members of gun control advocacy groups and student activists.
“When I came to the Hartford Women’s March a few months ago I didn’t think we would be able to match that energy again,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin told the crowd, “But you did it.”
The event was organized by Tyler Suarez, University of Bridgeport freshman and nephew of former Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in the December 2012 shooting.
The Newtown shooting became a focal point of the event, as several people affected by it spoke while others held posters displaying its victims’ names and wore green and white, the elementary school’s colors.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” Representative Elizabeth Esty told the crowd. “Everyone who went through Newtown felt Parkland very deeply.”
Monte Frank, founder and leader of Team 26, an organization that coordinates bike trips from Newtown to Washington, said on the night of Dec. 14, 2012, he remembers explaining to his 11-year-old daughter that her principal and third grade teacher had been murdered.
“Those same conversations were happening all over Newtown, conversations that still haunt me to this day,” Frank said. “My teammates and I rode here from Newtown this morning, and my feet are numb but I will never become numb to mass shootings.”
Erica Lafferty, Hochsprung’s daughter, told the crowd that there have been and will continue to be setbacks in the fight for gun control, but she believes the tide is changing.
“We have to prepare for setbacks and heartache. There will be another shooting and it will hurt,” Lafferty said. “Something you hear a lot of in this movement is that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Know that just because change doesn’t happen overnight doesn’t mean that we are not winning.”
Lafferty said her best advice to persevere through those setbacks is to simply keep going.
“Keep your message unified, keep your voices loud,” Lafferty told the crowd. “Keep your hopes high. Keep knocking on doors, keep registering voters, keep organizing, keep voting.”
Much of the event was led by students, as high schoolers, college students and young people spoke on why they chose to increase their involvement in the gun control fight.
“I feel hurt, I feel scared, and worst part is that I can’t say, ‘I can’t believe this,’ because I can,” 16-year-old CT Teens Against Gun Violence founder and Wilton resident Isabella Segall told the crowd. “This is not going to go away unless we do something about it and we’re going to do something now. More than ever, the students need to rise to the occasion and create change because it starts and ends with us.”
21-year-old Connecticut State Senate candidate Will Haskell said that in running for office, he is challenging an incumbent candidate who believes Connecticut went “too far” in regulating guns after Sandy Hook.
“We can make change ourselves,” Haskell said. “We don’t need Washington’s permission to protect our schools. Don’t tell me to pray, instead tell me to act. Don’t tell me to call my legislators, instead help me replace them.”
High School students Sam Nadeau and Jenna Kiernan said they attended the event with a group of students from their high school in Colchester.
“We have a Young Democrats club at our school,” Nadeau said. “They organized a bus to come here so that students could come.”
Kiernan said Colchester residents donated money to buy posters and markers for the students.
“We all came together and made (posters),” Kiernan said. “It’s cool that we all can come as kids. We didn’t have to come with our parents, we could just come ourselves.”
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.