It’s already been a week since the now historic March for Our Lives. As a student at a local college, I knew plenty of people who, this time last week, were busy making up signs or packing backpacks for a carpool or bus ride down to Albany or the city. It was easy to see the enthusiasm, the fervor in their eyes. But it wasn’t just students and young people that spearheaded this massive wave of people that rolled across the country on the 24th of March. Perhaps the thing that has surprised me the most in the week since the demonstrations is the sheer number and diversity of the people who participated.
Though the main march occurred in Washington, DC, the March for Our Lives was a national event. Almost every town in America either had its own march, or welcomed people who traveled, in some cases hundreds of miles, to participate in another. I found four people from our own community, who participated in four different versions of the march, and asked them why participating was so important to them.
Scott Carrino and his wife Lisa (below) are the owners of the Round House Bakery Café in Cambridge, NY, as well as the Pompanuck Farm Institute, an eco-retreat center near Bennington, VT. They helped organize the march in Cambridge, the one closest to Saratoga Springs. Here’s what Scott told me:
“Well, Nancy Krauss really deserves all the credit. Nancy owns the Copper Trout Gallery in town. She was also one of the main organizers of the Woman’s March in Cambridge. She loves community and this was her main effort. As for the March, it was great. There were 300 people, including three congressional candidates and the Mayor of Saratoga. But really, it was the people of Cambridge, Salem and Greenwich that showed up. The march went down East Main Street and ended at our café. The Roundhouse Bakery Café is a community gathering place, and so it was logical that we would be asked to host the spot where everybody landed at the end of the march, and we were very, very happy to do so. My wife and I have been living in this community for 30 years, and we believe that people can get together, voice their feelings about issues and make these marches be a larger expression all over the country.”
Basil Lilien is a junior studying English at Skidmore College and attended the Albany march. Basil’s interested in creative writing, disability studies and education-related advocacy. Here’s what he told me about his experience at the march:
“I wanted to be part of the tangible proof that there’s a significant portion of the country that is tired of the status quo and ready for common sense gun control legislations. However, part of me worries that these sorts of marches are ‘preaching to the choir.’ But another part of me thinks they have the power to influence people. At the very least, I hope the march motivates more people who support gun control to be outspoken and vote. And I did see some signs I didn’t expect to see, like from those who choose to use guns for hunting but want to regulate which guns are available. So hopefully that makes people realize that there are multiple positions that can be taken in this debate; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”
saratoga living‘s own Chief Photographer Lawrence White, who snaps photos for our magazine and website all around the Capital Region, attended New York City’s March for Our Lives. Here’s what he told me about being there behind the lens—and for his own personal reasons:
“I served four years in the military during the Vietnam War. During that period, I was trained on handguns, long guns and automatic weapons. I’ve seen what these weapons do to human flesh and bone. For that reason, I have the greatest respect for guns, and I’m fully aware of why we must legislate safer ways to deal with them on a national basis. Events like this are an opportunity to share individual advocacy with the larger group and to display a level of commitment and focus to the public at large. I was struck by the cross-cultural mix of the crowd. Young and old from all races, religions and economic backgrounds were in attendance, and their clear level of commitment to the cause was impressive. During the afternoon, I met photographers from Europe, Asia and South America. If the goal of the march was to get the world’s attention, these marchers were highly successful.”
Joseph Vesic was one of the local high school students who traveled down to Washington, DC, to take part in the march. He’s a senior at Ballston Spa High School and was one of the main organizers of the walkout against gun violence there. His parents own the Ripe Tomato restaurant on Route 9. Here’s his perspective on why he attended the March:
“When people ask me why I personally felt the need to take to the streets of Washington, DC, to protest Congress’ inability to pass comprehensive gun reform regulations, I often like to quote President John F. Kennedy: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.’ Participation in the March last week in Washington is what I consider my civic duty; I take great pride in the fact that I participated in protesting an issue that is so important to me. I think that the marches that took place across the country were able to give this debate the momentum that it needed. We’re starting to see many states across the country beginning to listen to the future leaders of this country by changing state gun laws.”
Of course, these four participants represent only a tiny cross-section of our community. And it’s entirely possible that their neighbors, friends or family members—or even you!— share different views about gun control or national marches than they do. It’s understandable; this is a free country; we all have the right to our own opinion. But even if you find yourself disagreeing with these people’s viewpoints or reasons for attending the march, know that this could be the first step towards a dialogue. After all, having a good, intelligent debate never hurt anyone. And who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something from one another.