Wilton residents march against gun violence
Several Wilton residents were among the hundreds of thousands of people who hit the streets to rally against gun violence and honor the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., during March for Our Lives events on Saturday, March 24.
More than 800 March for Our Lives rallies took place nationwide and around the world that day.
The main event took place in Washington, D.C., where attendance estimates ranged from 200,000 to 800,000, with Virginia-based firm Digital Design & Imaging Service estimating the former through the use of aerial photos and March for Our Lives organizers estimating the latter.
One of those attendees was Eliza Ward, a 2017 Wilton High School graduate and current student at American University, who “felt it was an amazing opportunity that [she] couldn’t miss.”
“Since I grew up so close to Newtown, the issue at hand was so close to home,” she said.
“I also was excited to go to this rally because it wasn’t about political opinions; it was about morality. Not everyone at the march had the same solution to the problem, but everyone acknowledged that something needed to be changed.”
Ward said the atmosphere was “inspiring and extremely respectful” and “every generation was represented” at the march.
“There were babies in strollers and elderly who were excited to participate,” she said.
Wilton High School senior Madeleine Pagliaro attended the March for Our Lives rally in Hartford with her mother and a group of students and parents from Wilton.
She said she decided to go because “there is an important message out there and it needs to be communicated.”
“I don’t like the feeling of going to school every day with the constant threat of gun violence. It is complicated enough to be a high school student,” said Pagliaro. “I believe we need better gun control and that our leaders must hear the message of the many students who share the same concern.”
Protesters in Hartford marched from Bushnell Park to the Capitol, where they rallied for about two hours.
Pagliaro said the speeches given at the rally “impressed” her and were “much more powerful” than she had expected.
Wilton residents Heather Mroz and Adriana Quintero were among the thousands of people who attended the March for Our Lives rally in Stamford’s Mill River Park.
As a “concerned parent of three,” Mroz said, she felt it was her responsibility to make her voice heard.
“The massacre at Sandy Hook affected me greatly. How can weapons of war be so accessible? The AR15 is not a hunting rifle, nor is it a home protection device. It is made to kill the largest number of people as quickly as possible,” she said.
“I believe the vast majority of Americans feel as I do, yet we allow a few million members of the NRA [National Rifle Association] to set public policy.”
Mroz said the March for Our Lives crowd in Stamford was “large and diverse” and the student speakers were “thoughtful, well-informed and mature.”
“All the speakers, both young and old, were impassioned yet spoke about practical ways to protect our schools, public places and victims of domestic violence,” said Mroz. “There were talented musicians, poets and, of course, Paul Simon, who sang The Sound of Silence. I left with renewed hope for our country’s future.”
New York City
Wilton resident Pam Kelley attended New York City’s March for Our Lives with a friend from Westport. According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, about 175,000 demonstrators showed up for the march.
“I support sensible gun laws,” said Kelley, who attended the March for Change in Hartford five years ago “to change state gun laws in the wake of Sandy Hook.” She said that event was “inspiring and frustrating.”
“What was the biggest shock for me at the Hartford march was hearing from victims of other shootings in Colorado, Virginia Tech and day-to-day gun violence, [who] all said they thought the shootings they experienced would be the last,” she said. “None of them wanted to be activists, but they realized that nothing was changing.
“Marching this past Saturday was in support of the students who have a unique voice in this controversy,” said Kelley. “It was inspiring to see the turnout, the posters, hear the speeches and chants, and to feel there are many people out there who feel as I do.
“There were League of Women Voter volunteers walking against the tide to register voters, and many were taking advantage of the opportunity,” she said.
“My hope would be that members of Congress listen to these new young voters, support sensible gun laws and feel that their support is more powerful than their fear of the NRA.”
Wilton resident Heather Wilcauskas and her husband were visiting their daughter in Massachusetts when they decided to participate in a March for Our Lives in the city of Northampton. The event brought together people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, said Wilcauskas, who marched “to take back control of gun policy.”
“The U.S. has a gun problem. Gun death statistics in the U.S. are staggering, yet we are unique in our inability — or more accurately, our unwillingness — to address the issue,” she said.
“As sad as it is to say, despite wealth and education, my generation failed to leave this world a better place and has failed to address some very large issues with dire consequences, including the NRA’s disproportionate impact on gun policy in this country.”
Policy, Wilcauskas said, “should express the will of the electorate and not be purchased by the NRA.”
Wilcauskas said those of her generation and older “need to commit energy to finding answers to issues on many fronts before it is too late by committing to influencing policy and electing representatives who will address a plethora of issues.”
“We also need to, at times, get out of the way and let the next generation of passionate, smart young people jump in to clean up our mess,” she said.
“The issue of gun violence seems to represent the last straw for these students and really galvanized them into action.”
To learn more about March for Our Lives, visit marchforourlives.com.