Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
Vallejo youth plea for action, not more gun violence in ‘March for Our Lives’By Richard Freedman, 03/24/18
Yes, Sgt. Brent Garrick was armed. It’s required of the job. But in providing a “police presence” at Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in Vallejo, the officer may as well have been packing a feather duster.
“This is very inspiring. There’s been no trouble at all,” Garrick said, surveying about 400 who finished the half-mile march. “Young adults seem to be so much more intelligent than my generation was. They’re aware of community, social events and things that affect us all.”
That, obviously, includes gun violence, with most of the young speakers in front of City Hall impacted directly or indirectly by guns.
While many of the nearly 850 cities involved nationwide in “March for Our Lives” offering elected officials as speakers, this was young-people-only at the microphone. And that was fine with Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan.
“This is outstanding,” Sampayan said of the turnout. “These people are the voices of not only our future but our present. I’m nothing but impressed.”
The day’s message, added the mayor, “is that people of this country are tired of violence. We need to come together as people and human beings to show we care for each other. This violence has to stop.”
The march began as the participants gathered just inside Harbor Way, with free beverages, protein bars and T-shirts distributed before the 1:30 p.m. start.
Mike Brown, walking solo, was happy to join the masses.
“It’s a powerful movement right now that I haven’t seen for a long, long time,” said the 63-year-old Brown. “I want to see it grow and I want to see the changes come. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids who are standing up and doing it.”
Brown hoped the march generated “some serious changes in the laws. There’s no reason for assault weapons.”
Barbara Gaea, a 24-year Vallejoan, said people “are so weary” of the gun violence.
“I think the outrage level is reaching the tipping point,” Gaea said “People can’t take the insanity any more. We don’t need weapons of mass destruction.”
Wisconsin-born Vallejoan Craig Gaines said he hopes action is taken soon because “kids need to be safe at school. There needs to be some control and deeper, stronger understanding of holding accountable those who we are going to issue guns to. We need to be more cautionary.”
Gaines said he hopes the national impact of the walk “wakes everyone up and lets everyone realize that our children are crying out. If you can’t go to school and be safe, where can you go other than being at home?”
While the youth takes over the reigns of the anti-gun violence movement, “we should support them,” Gaines said. “These are our leaders of the future.”
A long-time Vallejoan, Carlo Carlucci, 70, said he was compelled to march because of “anger and grief, losing our children on behalf of the egos of stupid people.”
Carlucci added that he’s grateful that “we have a new generation that is determined to lead us.”
At City Hall, the young people gave brief but passionate speeches, pleading for change.
“We need to take action and we need to save the ones we love,” said Isaiah Nickelberry, a John Finney High School student.
“We are all fighting for the same cause so our kids and our kids’ kids will have a better future,” Nickelberry said.
Bethel High Student Jenny Lee lamented “all the innocent lives lost” in Parkland and all the victims “who were the same age as me.”
“All our voices should be heard,” offered Arnaz Hall, another Bethel student, saddened that every day at school, “I have to think, ‘Am I going to make it home?’”
“Our president should stop worrying about immigrants trying to cross the border when there’s Americans killing each other,” added Hall.
An American Canyon High School student, “Natalie,” mourned the loss of her cousin, Eric Reyes, shot and killed in 2016 and namesake of the Eric Reyes Foundation.
“A life taken by teenagers who had guns who took a big part of me away,” Natalie said. “I miss him. I miss his smile. Someone took an innocent person’s life. I’ve had enough of this. We have seen enough senseless gun violence. We need action now, not later.”
“We don’t want to grow up in a world where every person can say they’ve lost someone to gun violence,” said Valentina Quintana, 17, believing “the government values money over the lives of people. Mass shooting after mass shooting. Why must we wait? I say we don’t. We must vote out those who accept money from the NRA, vote out those who blame mental health for gun violence but don’t provide any services or options for those who are mentally ill. We’re the new generation and we cannot allow this to continue.”
“None of us should be afraid of sending our children to a place they should feel safe,” said Juwanna Smith of the Sisterhood of Mothers.
Charnette Briggs, 22, added a musical break to the speeches, singing the 1965 hit, “What the World Needs Now is Love.”
“I chose it because there’s so much hate in the world,” Briggs said. “I was taught that we’re better together than apart. Love is a big factor.”
Initial looking at the crowd “was a little nerve-wracking,” said Briggs. “But it feels great. I hope the president takes this (the nationwide marches) seriously. No more lives need to be sacrificed, no more lives need to be killed.”