March For Our Lives packs Northampton streets

  • Northampton High School junior Cassidy McDonough, 16, center, heads to City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton High School junior Jay-Ho Chung, 16, center, heads to City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • People walk from Northampton High School toward City Hall to rally March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton High School senior Eva Gerstle, 18, center, leads the assembling crowd in chants before heading to City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Organizers Jesse Zeldes, 17, a junior at Northampton High School, left, Julia Albro-Fisher, 13, an eighth-grader at JFK Middle School, and Tadea Martin-Gonzalez, 16, a sophomore at Northampton High School, lead the way to City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Marchers descend upon Main Street headed from Northampton High School toward City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton High School freshman Gigi Crand, 14, rallies at City Hall March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Elena Frogameni, 18, a senior at Northampton High School, left, speaks outside of the school March 24, 2018, before leading the way to City Hall during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. Fellow student organizers Jesse Zeldes, 17, a junior at Northampton High School, Julia Albro-Fisher, 13, an eighth-grader at JFK Middle School and Tadea Martin-Gonzalez, 16, a sophomore at Northampton High School, hold a banner. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Organizers Jesse Zeldes, 17, a junior at Northampton High School, Julia Albro-Fisher, 13, an eighth-grader at JFK Middle School, and Tadea Martin-Gonzalez, 16, a sophomore at Northampton High School, lead the way to City Hall to rally during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton, Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Some 2,000-plus people flood Main Street at the Northampton City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Annalia Palladino, 4, of Northampton, holds a sign among some 2,000 or more people gathered at City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Some 2,000-plus people flood Main Street surrounding Northampton City Hall to rally March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Stoneleigh-Burnham School 10th-graders MJ Campos, 16, left, and Nikita Mangaru, 15, shed tears while the names of those killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are read aloud March 24, 2018, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives at City Hall in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Leah Cunningham, 5, holds a sign while on her father's shoulders during the Amherst version of the March For Our Lives event, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • A crowd of hundreds gather in the Amherst Center Front Lawn for the March For Our Lives, Saturday, March 24, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Emily Stetson, a UMass student studying for a Masters degree in Political Science, center right, shares her opinion on gun control during the Amherst version of March For Our Lives, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Marla Jamate, center, of Moms Demand Action, a political group out of Amherst, speaks about voting rights and fighting the NRA on gun control laws during Amherst's version of March For Our Lives event, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Pioneer Valley locals hold up hand-made signs over the heads of a crowd of hundreds at the Amherst version of March For Our Lives event, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Pioneer Valley locals hold up hand-made signs over the heads of a crowd of hundreds at the Amherst version of March For Our Lives event, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Sue Alexander, center with red hat, conducts the Raging Grannies singing group during the Amherst version of March For Our Lives, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Sue Alexander, right with red hat, conducts the Raging Grannies singing group during the Amherst version of March For Our Lives, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Sue Alexander, center right, the conductor of the Raging Grannies singing group, speaks about voting rights and fighting the NRA on gun control laws during Amherst's version of March For Our Lives event, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass students, left to right, Marcus Braudis, biology major, Alison Nunziato, management major, Claire Chang, psychology major, Kate Schacterle, psychology and political science major and Lily Elkin, psychology major, hold up the March For Our Lives sign while Emily Stetson gives a speech on gun control, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Marla Jamate, center, of Moms Demand Action, a political group out of Amherst, speaks about voting rights and fighting the NRA on gun control laws during Amherst's version of March For Our Lives event, Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Mabella Mendez, Amherst native, center, holds up a sign with her local singing group called the 'Raging Grannies,' Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Amherst Center Front Lawn in support of gun control. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Students including Colin Henrichon, 17, of Smith Academy, left, stage a “lie-in” honoring those killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives Saturday at City Hall in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Wellesley College student Isabella DeHerdt, 19, of the band Kalliope Jones, performs outside of Northampton City Hall March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton High School juniors Jay-Ho Chung, 16, left, and Samuel Buhl, 17, listen solemnly while the names of those killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are read aloud March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives at City Hall in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton High School junior Ben Moss-Horwitz, 17, right, speaks at City Hall March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Anne Thalheimer, a survivor of the 1991 shooting at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, speaks outside of Northampton City Hall March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Beckley Wooster, 12, of Winchester, N.H., center, holds a sign alongside Jenny Wooster March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives at City Hall in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Mia Flowers, leader of Massachusetts March for our Future, speaks outside of the Northampton City Hall March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Colin Henrichon, 17, of Smith Academy, left, cries while the names of those killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are read aloud March 24, 2018 during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives at Northampton City Hall. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Students sing their own version of "This Little Light of Mine" on the steps of Northampton's City Hall March 24, 2018 to close the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Students including eighth-grader Elizabeth Siller, 14, of West Springfield Middle School, sing their own version of "This Little Light of Mine" on the steps of Northampton's City Hall March 24, 2018 to close the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Students including Marleyna George, 16, a junior at Northfield Mount Hermon School, center, stage a "lie-in" honoring those killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during the Pioneer Valley March for Our Lives March 24, 2018 at City Hall in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@mjtidwell781
Published: 3/24/2018 4:43:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — City streets and sidewalks from Northampton High School to City Hall filled Saturday with thousands of people protesting gun violence as part of the national March For Our Lives movement.

“We must no longer solely fight back tears,” NHS junior Cherilyn Strader said on the steps of City Hall. “We must fight for change … not just here, but all across the nation. We are sick and tired of seeing our peers in coffins.”

Crowd estimates varied, with Northampton Police Officer Michael Allard giving a conservative estimate of 2,000, although police earlier had called in off-duty officers because the march was bigger than expected. One estimate put it at between 2,500 and 3,000 people.

As the marchers reached City Hall, the student organizers had set up a stage for speeches and special band performances.

“We thought the first band could play about three songs as people filled in downtown,” Strader said after the event. “But I kept having to ask them to play more songs because people just kept coming down the street.”

Allard said after the march that no problems were reported at any of the local marches, as of 4:30 p.m. However, NHS student Ben Moss-Horwitz, one of the organizers of the march, did interrupt his speech to say that cars were being towed near Northampton High School.

The march

Before the march, people gathered in front of Northampton High School, holding posters, signs and banners.

The Sanders family from Westfield — dad Richard; Michael, 8; Jordyn, 16; Sydney, 14; and mom Rita — came to the march wearing matching blue “march for our lives” sweatshirts.

“As a mom, I am very concerned by the level of gun violence in America. We have a violence problem in this nation,” Rita Sanders said. “But when we stand together, people pay attention and it forces change.”

Sydney’s experience was personal.

“As students, we want to feel safe in our learning environments,” Sydney said. “I never want to come home and find my little brother isn’t there because of gun violence.”

The group of student organizers led the way as the march began, wearing orange sashes that Moss-Horwitz said were to represent hunters’ vests that mean “don’t shoot.” Other students wore orange armbands in solidarity.

Students from many of the area colleges came out, too.

Isabella Epshtein, a student organizer with the PHENOM group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said a number of students from different student organizations at UMass came to support the march.

As the march moved off toward downtown, the streets became clogged and people walked slowly, side by side, down Elm Street. People emerged from houses along the route to hold signs in their yards and driveways and encourage the passing marchers.

“I was caught in a drive-by shooting when I was 15,” said marcher Anna Hight, holding a sign that read, “I survived gun violence and all I got was this lousy PTSD #Never-Again.”

Marching with Hight were friends and the Mirenda family. Eight-year-old Leo Mirenda said this is the third march he’s participated in this year.

Northampton Police were stationed around the march and officers directed traffic, blocked streets and stood along the march route. A number of students were seen stopping to thank officers for their help in keeping the march safe.

The speeches

As the speeches kicked off, Moss-Horwitz urged anyone 16 years and older to pre-register to vote and those 18 and old to register and vote.

“Through voting, we can reverse the power in this country,” he said, before calling on people to look inside themselves for compassion. “Hate is right here at home. Open your hearts. Pioneer Valley Students for Gun Control needs you. I need you.”

Then, Northampton High School senior Galen Winsor played a tribute to the 17 lives lost in the Parkland school shooting to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” singing one sentence about each victim and asking the crowd to consider what their own one sentence might be or that of their child.

The song also included a tribute to Stephon Clark, “shot more than 20 times in his own backyard,” to honor the unarmed black man shot by police in Sacramento, California, last week.

The crowd joined in to sing the chorus and many people wiped away tears. After the song, students staged a lie-in, lying down on the ground to symbolize the deaths of their peers, while others knelt.

Author Jane Yolen took the stage with Abi Davey, a junior at Smith Academy in Hatfield. Yolen told the story of the 1996 Dunblane massacre in Scotland, where 16 children and one teacher were killed, saying it only took six months after the shooting for the people of Scotland to enact gun control and decrying the number of mass shootings that have occurred in America.

“‘This is not normal,’” Yolen said. “That’s what these students are saying. For the love of everything you hold sacred, listen to them.”

Davey read from a poem to convey her thoughts as a young student.

“I think of them,” she said. “Those children. Never getting older.”

Julia Albro-Fisher, an eighth-grader at JFK Middle School, shared what it’s like for her to grow up hearing about school shootings and gave a first hand view of what it’s like to sit in a darkened classroom during lockdown drills.

“I wasn’t born yet when Columbine happened. I was 8 when Sandy Hook happened,” she said. “Every kid and teacher in America is thinking, ‘Is the door locked?’”

One of our own

There was only one adult speaker at the march, not including Yolen joining Davey for her poem reading. That adult was Anne Thalheimer, who works with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown for Gun Safety and who is a survivor of the shooting at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 1991, when she was 16 years old.

“I found a place where I finally felt like I belonged, found friends I thought would be with me for life, and a mentor I thought would advise me through my profession,” Thalheimer said. “We later found out the murderer was one of our own. The rest of us were left wondering how this could have happened.”

She said 20 years later, to the day, her friends called and told her not to turn on the news about Sandy Hook.

“This should not be normal. We must work to change this,” she said.

Bands Kalliope Jones and Felixis Jinx performed as members of the crowd danced along, and student organizer Strader left a message for Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo asking for change on gun control. Strader encouraged others to call their representatives and to advocate for legislation currently being considered.

The students are pushing for two bills, H.3081 and H.3610, which would allow for the establishment of Extreme Risk Protection Orders that would prohibit individuals who present a clear and present risk from purchasing or possessing a firearm for a year after the order is issued.

Two seniors from UMass Amherst who went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School also spoke, their eyes shaded by sunglasses as one recalled a teacher at Stoneman Douglas telling her that what happened at Sandy Hook would never happen at their school.

Forming the march

Saturday’s march was co-sponsored and supported by over 72 organizations, both local and national.

After the march, student organizer Jesse Zeldes, 17, said the march came together well after their hard work and planning and that he was excited to see how many people came.

“A lot more people showed up than we were expecting,” Zeldes said. “We need that presence to ensure that our story is told. I think people are leaving with the sense that we can go out and actually do something.”

“The community absolutely heard us,” said NHS senior Jasmine Butler. “And we want to keep this going.”




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