Valley students march in Boston

  • Teenagers lead thousands of protesters through the heart of Boston at the March for Our Lives on Saturday. The march started at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and ended with a rally on Boston Common. STEPHANIE MURRAY

Published: 3/25/2018 10:23:05 PM

BOSTON — Teenagers who say they’ve had it with gun violence in American schools led thousands through Boston on Saturday to demand action on gun control at the city’s March for Our Lives demonstration.

Leading the national push for gun reform are survivors of last month’s school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla. Their message hit home for 14-year-old Isabelle Farrick, a Turners Falls High School student.

“We are here to fight for the right to feel safe in school,” Farrick said. “To make sure that we don’t have to worry about not seeing our parents again when we leave to go learn.”

Farrick is a member of “Students Take a Stand,” a group formed at her school shortly after the shooting. It’s a place where teens can discuss ways to make schools safer. She took a bus to the march with students and their families from Hatfield and the Gill-Montague Regional School District.

“I think everyone has really realized how important this cause is and how it’s really having an effect on our youth,” Farrick said.

Joining the march, Farrick and a group of her peers in matching T-shirts held signs and chanted. Boston Police estimate the protest drew some 50,000 protesters, the Boston Globe reported. March organizers said 100,000 people participated.

“If you’re over 25, get to the back,” one organizer shouted to the mass. This march, they said, was for the young people. Protesters spilled onto sidewalks and stopped traffic as the march wound its way to Boston Common. One young man carried a sign bearing an internet meme that pays homage to the Nickelodeon show “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Deep in the crowd, a man on stilts danced to music played by a band of merry musicians called the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians, or “BABAM.”

“We are a bunch of musicians that come together whenever there is a job to be done that requires backup music and energy,” musician and Cambridge resident Sophie Craft said.

Craft, who previously lived in Leverett, said her views on guns have not changed since the Parkland shooting.

“What has changed is the students are more vocal and organizing things,” Craft said. “I’m training to be a teacher, I don’t want to carry a gun and I would love our Congress to do something about it.”

After the march, protesters engulfed Boston Common. Speakers recounted the Parkland tragedy and drew attention to the impact gun violence has on communities of color.

Far from the stage, police surrounded a few dozen gun rights advocates. Some wore camouflage clothing or helmets. A man wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag around his shoulders pointed to the National Rifle Association logo on his baseball cap.

“Why don’t you people go interview Nikolas Cruz about what he did?” the man asked. “It wasn’t the NRA who did this.”

A small group dressed in black holding a flag emblazoned with “antifa,” a network of anti-fascist groups, stood nearby. Some wore black ski masks or bandanas over their faces.

Jean Hobbie, a member of the group that organized the bus from Hatfield, said she attended the march to support the young protesters. Her group Hatfield HEADS Up aims to dismantle stigma, especially around mental health.

“We feel young people have gotten to the heart of the matter,” Hobbie said. “We are here to support them and follow their lead.”

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