Benicia Herald: March for Our Lives draws hundreds in Benicia

Repost from the Benicia Herald

‘March for Our Lives’ draws hundreds in Benicia

Benicians of all ages took part in the March for Our Lives on Saturday, which marched from the First Street Green to the gazebo in City Park where numerous speeches were given by Benicia High School students, elected officials and other citizens of note. (Photo by George Johnston)

Marches have been rare throughout Benicia’s history. Mayor Elizabeth Patterson claimed the last one was held in the World War II era. However, that changed when 800 to 1,500 people filled the streets of downtown Benicia for the March for our Lives.

Like the thousands of other Marches for Our Lives events held throughout the world in response to the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. people from all over Solano County gathered in Benicia to call for tighter gun control laws and protest gun violence.

The march began around 10 a.m. at the bottom of the First Street. Students of all ages lead the march downtown. Those on the sidewalks could hear such chants at “No more silence, end gun violence,” “Spread love, not hate. We just want to graduate” and “Never again” filling the air. The march ended at the gazebo in City Park where the speech portion of the rally was to begin.

Benicia High students led the march. (Photo by Kathryn Lauritzen)

Vice Mayor Steve Young Young began by reading the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting and asking for a moment of silence. He then turned the microphone over to Benicia High School senior Shawna Williams.

“It terrifies me that I can go and buy any gun I want,” Williams said. ” What 18-year-old needs a gun, let alone a weapon of war. We’ve seen what semi-automatic weapons can do, so why are they still being sold? Is it because the NRA needs money? I wish the answer was no, but the NRA has been clear that their right to bear arms outweighs our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Patterson spoke next.

“My dream is freedom from fear of guns, bullies, and the NRA,” she said. “My dream is for Benicia to be free, not fortified, free from impulse and calculated killings. My dream for the nation is to be free from the military rifles and handguns in our streets, in our schools, churches, concerts, workplace and just hanging out. My dream is the end of the night of guns killing five-year-olds and high schoolers, and teachers and church going people and workers in restaurants, and businesses and offices.”

“Today we are marching for lives,” she added. Tomorrow we write our elected officials representatives to end gun violence.”

Liam Madigan said the world has changed and felt gun laws should too. The Benicia High School junior called for youth action, upping the age restrictions for purchasing firearms and stricter gun control.

“Unlike cars, guns exist for one reason and one reason only: to kill,” he said.”The death that comes from the result of a gun is not the side effect, it is the effect. We can not treat them the same. We can not afford to look upon them the same as we would anything else because human lives are at risk.”

Assemblyman Tim Grayson, who represents Benicia, was the next speaker. He praised the student speakers and said his daughter has enough to worry about at school and should not have to fear whether she will come home or not. Grayson called upon states and the federal government to enact new gun regulations.

“No student should ever again know the trauma of a school shooting; seeing their friends die in the classroom, teachers heroically placing themselves in the line of fire in the hopes of saving students lives,” he said. “No parent should ever have to wait in anguish, wondering and waiting, hoping and praying for the text message that may never come. And no one, not a single person in any community in America should ever have to wonder if kids safe at school or this is the day tragedy comes home.”

Karah Fisher, a BHS senior, disputed the argument that teens are too young to speak out against gun violence.

“Gun violence has become an issue of young people because of the decades of stagnant policy, the decades of neglect by our representatives and the decades of silence,” she said. “All barring us from the protection we clearly deserve. I’m here to say we are not the generation that can save our economy or fixes policy or preserves our environment if we don’t live to see graduation. Therefore in order to achieve this future that we dream of, investing in our youth must be synonymous with investing in student and public safety with investing in policy that protects people over guns.”

Other speeches were given by Benicia High seniors Morgan Bundy and Carson Rendell, Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown, Benicia High teacher Michele Gaines, Benicia Unified School District Trustee Stacy Holguin, Solano County Board of Education Trustee Dana Dean, and Mel Orpilla, a spokesperson from Rep. Mike Thompson’s office. Addittionally, Benicia Poet Laureate Johanna Ely read her poem “I am Tired of Waking up to the Faces of Dead Children,”Benicia High senior Caitlyn Clark read a slam poem inspired the Parkland shooting, and BHS students Dahlia Elgonemy, Ameera Elgonemy, LaPaula Parker and Gabby Campitelli performed the song “Shine,” written by Parkland survivors Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Pena.

Fisher encouraged those who wish to see change to take action at the ballot box.

“Today, we march,” she said. “November, we vote.”