Words like “Give Me Crayons, Not Bullets,” “We Need Change and I’m Not Talking about My Diaper,” and “Kid Power, Not Gun Power” — the latter scrawled by a child’s hand with fat black marker on bright orange paper — were peppered among the homemade signs held by youth, who were joined by adults at the peaceful March for Our Lives protest in Sag Harbor on Saturday.
March for Our Lives was a national day of protest against gun violence and a rally for gun control organized by student survivors of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The main march, held in Washington, D.C., is estimated to have drawn 800,000, according to organizers, with dozens more sister marches held across the country, including one in Southampton Village. In Sag Harbor, the local march — organized by Pierson High School senior Sinéad Murray and resident Denise O’Malley — drew approximately 800. Young and old attended the march and protest, which began at 11 a.m. and included speeches by local students, opportunities to register to vote and a new song about gun control titled “What We Need Now” by Montauk musician Nancy Atlas.
“When I protested in the East Hampton High School walk-out, many cried out that we were politicizing the Parkland shooting, but commemoration without action is futile,” said East Hampton High School junior Gianna Gregorio, the first speaker at Saturday’s rally. “This is an inherently political issue and thoughts and prayers will not prevent another tragedy. So we protest. Not for an agenda, but for our lives.”
Seventeen stark white cardboard coffins draped in purple and red flowers were placed at the foot of the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Memorial Bridge, crafted by Noyac resident Ellen Stahl in remembrance of the 16 students and one teacher killed in the Parkland shooting.
“When I heard they were doing the March for Our Lives this weekend, I wanted to participate, but I wanted to bring home the hurt and the pain 17 families and friends are feeling in Florida,” Ms. Stahl said.
Jackie Hilly, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said she was proud to march with students in Sag Harbor and around the world for better gun laws.
“Luckily, in the state of New York, we have good gun laws,” she said. “We have an assault weapons ban, we have a high-capacity magazine ban, we license our gun owners. We have lots of hunters and sportsmen that enjoy their sports. We have reached a reasonable compromise here.”
Federal laws, however, Ms. Hilly called “abysmal,” with no assault weapons ban, no federal licensing of gun owners and no prohibition against bump stocks or high-capacity magazines. That makes New Yorkers vulnerable when traveling to other states, as many Pierson High School seniors will when they attend college next year.
Ms. Hilly targeted Congressman Lee Zeldin, noting the “A” rating he receives from the National Rifle Association each year, as well as his campaign contributions from the organization.
“The most important thing you can do is prevent gun violence and prevent gun deaths,” she said, “is to register to vote and in November, vote Lee Zeldin out of office.”
In her remarks, Ms. Murray said she should not have to “jump at every knock at the door” in school.
“I should not have to be in first period terrified for my life. … I should not have to think, ‘How fast can I run outdoors?’” she said. “People are not listening to young people because we don’t vote. We are not registered. We don’t think anyone can hear us. There is a table over there to register to vote. They won’t listen until we make ourselves heard.”
It appears at least a few government leaders did hear the call.
“Today, thousands of students across the country have come together to speak up and demand action so they no longer must fear for their safety,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement. “Our young people have become courageous leaders who have inspired a nation, and their voices must be heard. While local governments, law enforcement and administrators have joined forces to enhance school safety, we now need Congress to partner in our efforts. They can begin by listening to a new generation of leaders who are marching at the doorsteps of the U.S. Capitol.”
“What this generation is saying is we saw Florida, we understand the facts and it makes no sense,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said after marching in New York City. “It makes no sense to defy the reality that we all understand. And they’re angry at Washington and they’re angry at the lack of leadership, and they should be. And they’re saying if you won’t lead, we will lead.”