Protesters gather in downtown Rochester to advocate against gun violence

Jun. 12—ROCHESTER — “Dear America,” Gabby Holmes, an organizer of Rochester’s March for Our Lives, started her speech. “When will the lives lost outweigh the money from the NRA?”

Protesters gathered on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Peace Plaza as a part of the nationwide protests, March for Our Lives. March for Our Lives is a youth-led movement against gun violence that formed after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Beni Benyei is a 22-year-old student at Rochester Community and Technical college who helped organize the March for our Lives protest in Rochester. According to Banyei, he also helped organize the March for Our Lives demonstration in Rochester held in 2018 after the Parkland shooting.

“Here I am four years later marching for the same thing,” Banyei said.

The group of protesters first gathered around 11 am to make posters for the march. By the time the march started, protesters held up signs reading, “Enough is Enough,” “Rochester could be the next Uvalde” and “no need for semi-automatic guns.”

Yogish Kudva is a Rochester parent who attended the protest with his family. Kudva’s children attend Ben Franklin Elementary School and Montessori.

He came to the event out of concern about recent gun violence and school shootings and wants to see lawmakers “making sure there are more safeguards against the availability of such destructive weapons.”

“I hope we can value children enough that we pass sensitive laws and enforce them,” Kudva said.

Before the group started marching toward the city-county Government Center, there was an open mic where people shared their thoughts on gun violence and what action should be taken to address it.

Greg Hagen came up to the stage and started his speech by reflecting on the US Constitution. Hagen said he has been thinking recently about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

“We also have the right to life and the pursuit of happiness,” Hagen said. “Machine guns are limiting that right.”

As protesters started marching, its organizers led chants of “no more silence, end gun violence” and “kids over guns.”

The group of about 100 people gathered outside the Government Center where speakers continued through the end of the protest and closed out with a moment of silence to honor the 21 victims of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The organizers introduced Gary Chris Christopherson, who, according to the student organizers, pushed them to organize the protest.

Christopherson spoke about the need to address gun violence by looking at it as more of a systemic issue and addressing all the factors that contribute to it, such as bullying, access to guns, and family dysfunction.

“Violence is not inherent,” Christopherson said. “We have the ability to stop the violence. Do we have the will is the question.”

There were 11 mass shootings in the United States last weekend, Holmes said while giving her speech.

ABC News reported on June 6 that there have been 33 mass shootings since the shooting in Uvalde, which resulted in 34 people being killed and 157 being injured.

“I warn you politicians and lawmakers now,” Holmes said. “Take action today or we will make action ourselves when the time comes.”

“Sincerely, the children of America.”

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