A March in Syracuse, in concert with the March for our Lives in Washington drew hundreds of students, parents, teachers and a wide range of other community members. And while they focused on ending school shootings, they called for progress on other violence in the community as well.
Organizer Aishwarya Varakantam, a junior at Christian Brothers Academy, was moved to help organize the March for Our Lives event after reflecting on the Parkland school shooting in Florida.
"I realized how these kids never saw this coming. They probably didn't imagine this in their wildest dreams. Yet something like this happened. This made me realize this could happen to me in my school. It could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime and there's no way of knowing when or why this would happen."
Another of the organizers, CBA junior Jessa Davidson, wanted the crowd to know this march was about more than just school violence. She notes that prejudice and violence in society means being a woman is a risk, being Jewish is a risk, but that schools should be a place to get away from such dangers.
"There have been 291 school shootings since 2013, making every shool have a target on its back. Being a student has become a risk. It doesn't stop here; the city of Syracuse deals with gun violence on a daily basis."
Some of the most compelling speakers shared their personal experiences with violence. Rebecca Dutsar shared her experience being in the same school district as the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in 2012. In fact, her younger sister was in the school the day of the shooting. Dutsar notes any students involved are changed forever. She urged people to use their furstraionts, anger and pain for change.
“I urge you to carry your frustration around with you, share your fear and sadness with others to convince them of the urgency. Carry your pain and anger straight to the polls and vote. The children and students of America are worth it, and they are relying on us”
Jamesville -Dewitt High School teacher Donna Oppedisano reminded the crowd that despite the focus on the school shooting at Majorie Stoneman Douglas school and the 17 students lost there, many other young people are dying in schools and in our community. She also soke against calls to put more guns in schools as a defense against ht enext possible school shooter.
"Don’t ask me to carry arms… instead, arm me with: more mental health professionals in our schools, smaller class sizes so that we can really great to know our kids, support for families who find themselves in crisis.”
After asking the crowd to thank the students who organized the march, Oppedisano had a message to elected leaders to pay heed to this march and others seeking change.
"Now, to our representatives. Listen to these kids! Listen to their voices …. These kids are our future. They are your future, and guess what: they're gonna vote!”
The March for Out Lives in Washington drew hundreds of thousands. The March for Our Lives Syracuse took place Saturday between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m.