'It's our moment to share what we believe in'
Students, supporters add their voices to nationwide March for Our Lives
The local event was one of the more than 800 worldwide sister protests about gun control that took place this past weekend. Participants estimated that over 100 people had shown up to the Bennington march, which was organized by the Greater Bennington Peace and Justice Center.
While most of the event was confined to the Four Corners due to the rescheduled Saint Patrick's Parade, a group of students still marched down the sidewalks of Main Street, holding their signs high.
"I do not want to die," one the student's sign read. Just behind that sign, another read: "Am I next?"
"Thoughts and prayers don't stop bullets," read another sign.
March for Our Lives events drew massive crowds in cities across the country on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of teenagers and supporters who were spurred to action by shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month that left 17 people dead.
"There's been so many shootings this year and nobody is listening," said Fiona Young, a freshman at Mount Anthony Union High School. "It's important that us, the kids and our parents, and everybody else in the community has a say and to show other people what we think."
Alea Myers, a freshman at Burr and Burton Academy who stood beside Young at the Four Corners, said that one of the reasons she decided to participate in the march was that students' voices were being ignored.
"You never know when it's going to happen or where it's going to happen," Myers said. "It can be any town. You can feel sort of safe [in school] because it's never happened in your community, but you also know that it can happen anywhere in any time. It happens all the time."
Both Young and Myers said that Saturday wasn't their first protest. They both participated in their school's walkouts and Myers said that she knew some people who went to Washington, D.C. to participate in the satellite march.
Young said that the march felt empowering, especially because it was held in conjunction with a larger cause. Myers found comfort in the number of suppers and adult supporters who were standing alongside the kids, especially those that she's close with.
"It's comforting to know that there are people who are just as concerned as we are and that are willing to go outside of their houses and walk together," Myers said.
"We shouldn't be having to do this, especially the kids," Young said. "It shouldn't be our problem. It should be up to the state, but if they're not doing anything, it falls into our hands."
Eva Moser and Lilana Pisano traveled from North Adams, Massachusetts to Bennington to participate in the march with Moser's mother, Valerie Carrigan. Both of the students decided on their own to join the march.
While there was a March for Our Lives event at Court Square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, they decided to travel Vermont as they believed it would be a smaller protest that would better help their voices be heard.
This wasn't either of the girls' first time attending a demonstration. Pisano participated in her school's walkout, and Moser said she had gone to similar protests in Pittsfield. This was Pisano's first time holding a sign at a demonstration.
"I think being out here is taking a stand for our safety in schools," Pisano said. "It's our moment to share what we believe in."
Moser said that by participating in the protest, it was showing the world that children have the power to make change, too.
"[The number of turnouts] show how much people want to change what's happened in our past and it's really cool to see all of these people because they're going to help make the difference," she said.
Carrigan said that she found the protest to be empowering for the girls because the movement was started by students. She also found it empowering because while they stood at the Four Corners with the girl's both holding the sign together, they were a part of something much greater.
"I think it's amazing that our young people are learning to be aware about what's happening in society and politics at such a young age. It gives them so much more room to grow, understand, and to have a chance to speak for themselves and their beliefs," she said.
Carrigan remarked that she felt proud of the girls, and that, as a teacher herself, the cause was quite important to her.
"I want people to understand that we aren't here to take guns away. We are here to say that there is no need for some guns to be used," said Manuel Noguera as he stood just outside of the Fiddelhead art gallery.
Noguera, a teacher who teaches middle school age students, said the issues surrounding gun violence are very important to him. He doesn't want to see his students have to go through these situations; he doesn't believe that teachers should be armed either.
Noguera said that he believes that semi-automatic weapons aren't needed and shouldn't be in the hands of the public — these types of guns are often used during school shootings or in other gun-related massacres.
"I think there is no small march," he said. "I was very happy with the number of people that came out. That means that we are a part of this movement and that we'll have to keep pushing."
Noguera said that more people came out in support of the cause rather than those who opposed it. He had expected more counter-protesters to show up.
Young and Myers said that while they had been out demonstrating, they witnessed some pushback from opposers. The occupants of some cars made obscene gestures at them while they stood on the street, something both expected. But they were outnumbered by motorists who honked in support. Few stopped to talk to the demonstrators.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.