Thousands in NJ join national March for Our Lives effort
NEWARK — Students from around New Jersey gathered at nearly two dozen marches in support of the March For Our Lives event in Washington.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida are at the center of the march, which expected to bring one million to Washington DC. The goal of the march in Washington and others around the country is to bring attention to their message for Congress to take strong action on gun violence and gun laws.
Elizabeth Meyer, lead supporter of the students who organized the state's biggest walk in Newark estimated about 6,000 participants came to the march at the city's Military Park.
"It was remarkable.We had to stop along our march route to wait because our march crossed itself," Meyer said, adding that one of the stops was about five minutes as people exited the park.
She said the student organizers saw that if they decide to do something, step up together to combine their efforts they will have success. "To see these kids learn that if they use their use their voice it makes a difference. Today they created a platform for 6,000 people to come out to make the message very clear that this is not people political but it's about people's lives."
Several of the student organizers too the podium to speak.
Marlboro High School student Sarah Baum, one of the student organizers of the march, answered the question asked of many participants: "What do we want? Why are we marching?"
The senior told the crowd, "We march for action. We march to raise the age requirements for firearms, to implement universal background checks so dangerous people cannot acquire dangerous weapons, to keep military grade weapons out of civilian hands."
Another student organizer, Princess Sabaroche, compared Newark and the gun violence her hometown goes through to the pain Parkland felt after the February 14 massacre that left 17 people dead.
"The pain the people of Parkland are feeling is the pain the citizens of Newark go thorough on a daily basis," Sabaroche said, adding that there were 100 deaths in Newark related to gun violence in Newark in 2016.
Darcy Schleifstein told the crowd she met with several Marjory Stoneman students and talked about the death of her friend Alex Schacter, one of the victims of the shooting. She said her grief turned to anger after meeting David and Lauren Hogg, Harris Jaffee and Ryan and Matt Deitch.
"As he hugged us, David said 'you go and kick some ass.' That is what we are here to do today," she said
Elissa Malespina overcame her fears to come to the Newark march with a group from South Orange and Maplewood.
"I have panic attacks, especially when I am in large groups of people, but because this is such an important cause and something I believe so highly in, I overcame my anxiety and marched," Malespina told New Jersey 101.5.
"I think the March was well organized. The speakers where great. Governor Murphy gave a great speech and so did all the student organizers," she said.
Colin Sumner, organzier of the Union County march in Union Township was very pleased with the turnout of several hundred people, which was addressed by Rep. Donald Payne. The Westfield High School student said he thinks the message was well received.
"We had the streets of Union partially shut down. We had cars driving by honking and screaming out their windows 'keep going,'" Sumner said.
A teacher who identified herself as "Debbie" went to a march inside Audobon Park in Haddon Heights, and was encouraged by what she saw.
"I see many educated students, students that have a voice in their future. Very positive for common sense gun laws. People were lining up for voter registration forms, asking questions on filling them out. Very supportive,"
In Washington, Bearing signs reading "We Are the Change," ''No More Silence," ''Keep NRA Money Out of Politics," protesters lined Pennsylvania Avenue from the stage near the Capitol, stretching back toward the White House. The route also takes in the Trump International Hotel. President Donald Trump was in Florida for the weekend; a motorcade took him to his West Palm Beach golf club on Saturday morning.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report