On Saturday March 24, millions across the country protested on behalf of the victims from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to voice their anger about the lack of gun control and continued school shootings in America. In Philadelphia alone, over 5000 people attended the March and corresponding rally. The March began early Saturday morning with protesters gathering in front of Independence Hall before making their way through Old City to the rally at Columbus Boulevard. At the rally, protesters heard from a variety of voices including local high school and college organizers, artist Suzann Christine, who sang about issues of police brutality, and Senator Bob Casey, who promised to continue the fight against automatic weapons at the federal level.
Many members of the Haverford community marched, in large part thanks to the efforts of student activists.
“Anna [Saum ‘18] and I received funding from the Rufus Jones Leadership Fund to create a series of events surrounding the March for Our Lives and also to provide people with transportation to the march in Philadelphia,” said Hanae Togami ‘19.
Before the protest, the community welcomed Victoria Greene and her daughter, Chantay, to speak about their non-profit based in Philadelphia called Every Murder Is Real (EMIR) named after Victoria’s son who died of a gunshot wound at age 20. The organization lobbies government officials for better gun laws and works closely with families affected by gun violence.
“Victoria and Chantay talked to us about how we might be more inclusive in our message at the March for Our Lives which focused more on white students killed in school shootings than people of color lost to many forms of gun violence,” Togami continued. The purpose of the talk was to discuss the intersections between race and gun violence.
A few days before the March, in conjunction with Quaker House and 8th Dimension, Togami and Saum distributed Septa tickets to students for the event and provided van transportation for interested students. At the March, the streets were crowded with protestors bundled in heavy coats and carrying signs with slogans such as, “Protect Children not Lobbyists” and “18th Century Laws with 21st Century Guns.” One Haverford student, Mathilde Denegre, carried a sign with the saying “Growth not Death.”
“I thought it went really well,” said Ceci Silberstein ‘19. “There was a somber tone, but I think people were really on message and the rally was really well done.”
Others were less impressed. This was first-year Marisa LaBraca’s first protest. “I honestly expected more. Whenever I think of protests I think of everybody getting riled up but there wasn’t a lot of energy.”
After the March, Quaker House held a brunch which hoped to provide a space for Haverford community members to reflect on the protest. However, the conversation quickly morphed into a discussion about Special Plenary and the Honor Code. A few days later, Quaker House hosted another event to write letters to public officials.
Togami hopes that the conversation about gun control will continue.“Protests can be very effective, but sometimes protests happen and people move on. There is a lot of work to be done to combat this issue that is not public protest, and we wanted to help start that conversation.”