Thursday, December 8, 2022

Students, lawmakers gather at Capitol as part of worldwide March For Our Lives rally

June 12, 2022
<p>Gov. Gretchen Whitmer high-fives students who gathered outside the Michigan State Capitol for the &#x27;March For Our Lives&#x27; rally for gun control on June 11, 2022.</p>

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer high-fives students who gathered outside the Michigan State Capitol for the 'March For Our Lives' rally for gun control on June 11, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Hundreds gathered at the Michigan State Capitol to join in a worldwide protest against gun violence organized by March For Our Lives Saturday morning. 

People of all ages crowded onto the Capitol lawn to listen to students, teachers and lawmakers speak out against the current epidemic of gun violence. 

This comes after multiple mass shootings in the last few months, especially in school settings — including shootings in Oxford, Michigan, Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, among others.

Okemos High School senior and March For Our Lives Co-Chair Neelu Jaberi said students are frustrated that politicians have not enacted change. 

“It can be incredibly draining and frustrating,” Jaberi said. “It also gives us a voice and lets our voice be heard. A lot of times (politicians) don’t look at the youth, they ignore us … but we have made it so that they have to listen to us.” 

Jaberi joined in with the thousands around the world as over 480 protests had been planned for the day — from Lansing to Washington D.C. to even Switzerland. 

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“I feel like being here to speak out can do something,” Vivian Morris, another student at Okemos High School, said. “Even if it’s just coming here and listening to speeches, I feel like that’s important.”

Rachel Willis, Vice President of the Lansing Board of Education, attended the rally to join in asking lawmakers to support educators in creating a safer environment for children in schools. 

Willis described the “hardening of our schools,” involving locking entrances and creating double vestibules, among other security measures.

Despite receiving funding to advance some of these measures a few years ago, Willis said, “we can only do so much as long as the weapon that can harm our kids is still accessible.”

Sherri Hammons is another local educator and parent who attended the rally to demand more from legislators, holding a sign that asked why it was harder to get Sudafed, a cold medicine, than a gun in America. 

“I would give my life for my students, but I shouldn’t have to,” Hammons said.

Hammons described the heart-wrenching experience of reassuring her students and creating an action plan with her son, in case of an active shooter. 

Hammons said her son was never content with running or hiding. Today, her son is at the US Naval Academy, hoping to protect his fellow Americans. 

“‘Mom, I can’t do nothing, you know I’m going to have to do something,’” he said.

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“My school year ended yesterday,” Hammons said through tears. “But I will never stop fighting for my students.”

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Tania Reese, a Kellogg Community College sophomore, wants to see action.

“I hope to see that people care instead of just putting it on social media and saying that they want change,” Reese said.

Abby Menke, another educator, attended the rally with her young daughter. She hopes that the movement against gun violence will encourage people to talk about the issue. 

“I hope that people are encouraged to spark … difficult conversations with people in their lives who are on the fence about this stuff,” Menke said.

Participant Julie Edgar came out “to support the kids.”

“I’m here to say to Republicans in that building, we’ll vote you out if you don’t vote for gun control now,” Edgar said.

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Attorney General Dana Nessel and Rep. Elissa Slotkin spoke at the rally, emphasizing the importance of voting. However, many students expressed fatigue and lack of faith in politicians. 

While some at the rally advocated for mental health legislation and reform, Isabelle Toupin, a clinical social worker, disagreed that this was the main issue. She made a homemade sign that read “my clients are more likely to be victims of a violent crime than perpetrators.”

“It really gets me upset hearing how people are perpetuating the stigma of mental health,” Toupin said.

While different ideas were voiced about how to fix the gun violence epidemic, one thing was clear: Those at the Lansing March for Our Lives rally demanded action. 

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