Thousands March For Our Lives against gun violence
Millions around the country are making their voices heard Saturday. They are taking part in the national March For Our Lives against gun violence. In Western New York, the call was for action, after so many prayers.
A sunny and cold afternoon in downtown Buffalo saw people taking to the steps of City Hall to speak out against gun violence.
The movement catapulted by young people after the Parkland school shooting in Florida was joined by so many others - some of them fighting the good fight for years, some of them new to activism.
Meghan Conners leads the newly formed Buffalo chapter of Mothers Demand Action, which formed after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Conners says most progress since then has been made at the state level.
"Because of the way Congress is currently structured, we haven't gotten through federally, but we are still fighting that fight and we are trying to get there," said Conners. "So a lot of states have experienced improvements. Here in New York, specifically, we are really in support of the ERPO bill that's at the Senate level."
Conners said the ERPO bill, or Extreme Risk Protection Order, allows concerned family members or neighbors to petition a judge to remove a firearm from the home of someone who is unstable.
The opening prayer of the event called for more than words.
"Religious leaders of all faiths understand that prayer and condolences are not enough in the face of the gun violence that affects communities across our nation (applause). You have commanded that we make no idol before you, Oh God. Help us to stop the worship of the deadly combination of money and guns in our culture."
Tim Harris is a concerned father who agreed priorities need to change in Washington.
"There should never be regular citizens in this country walking around with military grade weapons," said Harris. "I'm honestly offended that they were able to put together a bill in 48 hours to protect dogs. I love dogs, too, but the fact that they were able to put that together in 48 hours and yet our children still have to wonder if they are going to be safe in schools, is something that I feel is an issue that everybody should be out here about."
Many of the student speakers called out politicians for inaction on gun violence.
"These politicians, who have refused to protect us, have all along been unintentionally conditioning us through anger and suffering to come back at them with a far greater force than they could have ever imagined. There will be people in your life who don't agree with what you're standing here supporting, there will be family members who disapprove of you and internet polls that insult you, but stay smart and stay kind. This issue is not Democrat versus Republican, not Conservative versus Liberal, it's not blue versus red. This is life or death."
"Many people ask, 'How many more? How many more lives will be taken until we do something that can solve all of these?' As a 14-year-old freshman myself, I believe that school should be a safe, well-protected place for us to learn, make friends and memories. School is basically our home away from home. We should be able to feel safe. America has witnessed too many of these horrific shootings. We are the children of tomorrow, the teachers, the lawyers, the doctors, the police, the men and women running the world when we grow up. We should be protected, worry if we are next."
"We are here to say, 'Enough is enough. No more. No more.'"
"Our generation has grown up with shootings. We've grown up watching the horror of gun violence. We've grown up with people teaching us what to do when there's a gun - on the street, at school, at the movies, at a concert. We've had enough. We are proud to add our voices to the call for tougher gun laws today and every day. Our generation will continue to make our voices heard after today because the shootings and the gun violence can be stopped if access to assault weapons is restricted."
"I've had the distinct honor and pleasure of attending P.S. #39 and Nichols schools. I've been in class sizes of 40 with limited resources. I've been in class sizes of seven with abundant resources. But one thing that held true no matter I was in a school with a black majority or a white majority or if I had resources or not, school was a safe place for students. The classroom was a safe haven from the world outside those four walls. I have to be honest with you all today: I struggle with what is safe today, especially knowing the differences in the way that gun violence is treated in the black and white communities. We have seen enough examples to know that a black boy who holds only skills and fear will be seen as a thug. We have seen enough examples to know that a white man who holds that gun whose crime will be sanitized."
Buffalo's rally was among at least 700 scheduled in cities across the country on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo Police estimated the crowd at approximately 3,000 and reported no issues during today's events.