Eugene students demand gun legislation reform in yesterday’s March for Our Lives
When 15-year-old Jivan Jot Khalsa spoke in front of thousands of people during Eugene’s March for Our Lives on Saturday, she felt like she was going to cry.
“I felt super emotional because when I got up there to speak, I saw all these people here looking at me, treating me as equal — even though they’re like 40 or something,” Khalsa said.
Khalsa, a freshman at South Eugene High School, helped organize Eugene’s March for Our Lives, which attracted thousands of participants. The march is part of a nationwide protest to demand “a comprehensive and effective bill” to end gun violence at schools, according to the official Eugene March for Our Lives Facebook page. The national March for Our Lives was inspired after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
Khalsa and other South Eugene High School students were outraged by the deaths of students, which inspired them to organize the march.
“It’s nice to see that people are here and actually showed up,” Khalsa said. “It’s very empowering, and it’s confirming that people want actual change.”
Some marchers held signs with handwritten messages that were scrawled with Sharpie markers, and others signs were more elaborate, such as the signs with professional illustrations of student activists. Some children held up signs that they had drawn with colored markers.
“You’re the voice!”, “Protect kids, not guns!” and “Enough is Enough” are what some of the signs stated. One grandmother held a sign that said, “I march for my grandson’s safety.”
Speakers included members from the NAACP Eugene-Springfield branch as well as student organizers of the march.
When a man began heckling Khalsa during her speech, some marchers began shouting him down and told him to “shut up.” Khalsa continued to speak during the minor interruption, which only lasted for a few minutes before security went to investigate.
Diane Peterson, 39, got involved in the local Eugene chapter of Moms Demand Action after the shooting at Charleston High School two years ago, and she wanted to participate in the March for Our Lives to support student activists.
“This is a problem that directly affects the youth of our country,” Peterson said. “This is not just a one-day thing.”
The march began at the federal courthouse at East 8th Ave. at noon and ended at 2 p.m. outside Whirled Pies Downtown at West 8th Ave. Pyro Prodigies, a step dance group from Sheldon High School, performed outside of Whirled Pies at the end of the march.
Kira Stone, 16, and Ainsley Afelin, 17, are both students at Churchill High School in Eugene. They came to support their fellow students.
“I fear that my little sister who’s in elementary school could go through something like this and that I could lose her,” Stone said.
“It’s eye-opening seeing all these people being here,” Afelin said. “The fact that people are actually trying to make change and end gun violence is amazing.”
Sophia Reyes, 18, and Tyler Brown, 19, are an out-of-state couple and say that once they saw how politically active Eugene was, they wanted to show their support for causes that are important to them.
“It’s nice to see a community that embraces each others’ ideas and that comes together and creates such big impact on the community,” Reyes said. “One thing we feel like we can do to have our voices heard [is to march.] I feel like it’s an effective way to let our government know what we’re thinking about.”
“We’re from Vegas and not used to a community that’s so involved with each other,” Brown said.
Daniel King, 22, and Bailey Garcia, 24, are former students of the University of Oregon and Southern Oregon University, respectively, and wanted to march in support of student safety.
“I think any event like this where people advocate for the change we need to see is comforting… just to know — even though politicians and the people in power aren’t listening to what we want — that people in general feel the same way about needing change,” King said.
“I am really close to Umpqua Community College and that was really stressful,” said Garcia, referencing a school shooting at UCC in 2015. “We’ve had canceled days at SOU for supposed threats that were terrifying. It’s important to keep the voices going to show — especially the Parkland students — that we have their back.”.
Nathaniel, 13, is a student at Thurston Middle School. His mother has been talking to her son about what to do in a school shooting since he was in the third grade.
“Everyone has a voice,” Nathaniel said. “I hope that this is the start of change.”
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