More than 200 Plattsburgh State students, Plattsburgh High School students and community members marched together Saturday as a part of the national “March for Our Lives” movement supporting gun control reform in wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Plattsburgh’s march was organized by PSUC’s Young Democratic Socialists of America. More than 800 protests in the U.S. and around the world took to the streets Saturday for stricter gun laws.
From their event Facebook page, the club provided a list of demands, such as holding the NRA accountable, demanding Republican and New York Congressional District 21 Representative Elise Stefanik and all other politicians to stop taking donations from the NRA and its lobbyists and abolishing the gun show loophole.
“The only way you get your demands is through struggling, educating and organizing,” YDSA President Gwendolyn Sagliocca said. “That’s basically what the Parkland shooting showed us. When students actually got into the streets and organized together, they got things accomplished.”
This is the second march YDSA has been involved in this semester. They first participated in a protest march calling for the resignations of several PSUC administration officials after a racist Snapchat circulated through social media.
Soon after this protest, YDSA members received threats over Facebook. Threats varied from gun violence to instigators threatening to run over members of the club.
Despite these threats, YDSA felt compelled to carry on Saturday’s march.
“It’s important to do,” said Zoe Solomon, YDSA member and president and co-founder of PSUC’s Disabled Students Self-Advocacy Group. “We know there’s a chance we will get threats, but this is about more than [just] us. It’s about not just protecting children, but about everyone who is affected by [gun violence].”
The Plattsburgh community gathered in the Angell College Center at 12:30 p.m. By 1:30, marchers arrived at Trinity Park in downtown Plattsburgh where Quin Lee, a Plattsburgh High School senior spoke.
“I would prefer to leave school in a cap and gown and not a body bag,” she said to the large crowd.
Lee believes gun control is an issue that isn’t taken as seriously by her peers, who she feels have a carefree mentality about gun control and school safety .
“Sometimes the jokes get really out of hand,” Lee said.
With 18 school shootings so far this year, senior PHS student Emma Stewart started considering the possibility of a shooting in her own school.
“When we practice lockdowns, it’s a little more real now because of the recent events,” she said.
Overall, Stewart feels safe at PHS.
As participants followed the march’s route, event organizers called for students in their dorms and suites, passing Whiteface, Mason, Harrington and MacDonough halls, to join the protest over megaphones chanting, “Out of the dorms, into the streets,” and “Hey hey NRA, how many kids have you killed today,” among other chants.
Rachelle Armstrong, city councilor and retired principal for Beekman Central School District, and Sue Coonrod, retired educational administrator and art teacher, attended the Saturday march in full support.
“Most civilized countries have gun control,” Coonrod said. “The United States needs gun control. We don’t need NRA in our politics. We are the adults that have to protect our students in school, and we’re not doing it.”
Armstrong expressed her sentiments about the Plattsburgh community coming together to impact change.
“This [march] is an example of how those people, who are the victims of bad policy, have to feel that sense of solidarity with one another, draw upon empowerment and work together for change,” Armstrong said.
Despite this fear, Coonrod has faith in the students that are taking a stand against gun violence.
“The raw power and energy that we’ve seen since the horrible, horrible massacre in Florida [gives me] just so much hope,” Coonrod said. “Because the adults can’t do it, maybe the young people can.”
Email Emma Vallelunga and Fernando Alba at firstname.lastname@example.org