Students speak out at Rockland protest march to end gun violence – Knox County VillageSoup | #schoolshooting


ROCKLAND — Students from local schools spoke Saturday morning about having nightmares about mass shootings and worrying they would be sending their last “I love you” texts to their parents while hiding under desks.

Students from Oceanside High School, Camden Hills Regional High School and Brunswick Junior High spoke in an event that included a march through town of about 100 residents. The End Gun Violence march started at Chapman Park in Rockland.

Gail Curtis, 17, of Camden Hills Regional High School speaks out during a protest hoping to end school violence in Rockland on June 11. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

Those involved in the march held signs calling for an end to gun violence, for stronger gun safety legislation and for a focus on keeping our school children safe.

Speakers at the event included State Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, Rep. Ann Matlack, D-Spruce Head, The Rev. Peter Jenks, and District Attorney Natasha Irving.

Doudera said the group was joining thousands in marching across America Saturday, “marching for our very lives against gun violence.”

She said there is a gun problem in Maine in the form of suicides, domestic violence, accidents and the recent death of a two-year-old in a dispute that started over a T-shirt.

Lily Leeman, 14, of Brunswick Junior High organized a walk-out at her school to protest gun violence and was targeted by a Republican Senate candidate for it. Leeman spoke at the march in Rockland on June 11. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

She spoke of efforts to create gun safety legislation, aimed not at taking guns away from hunters, but at promoting gun safety. She was praised as brave by Matlack for forming a Gun Safety Caucus.

Jenks said Saint John the Baptist spoke truth to power, and he wanted to follow in that example. He said America needs to repent from the idolatry of guns. “We as a people need to repent by voting!”

Claire Caveney Snyder, 18, who just graduated from Oceanside High School, spoke of how that graduation event was marred for her by fear there would be a shooting. She said there were incidents when she was in junior high school when a student brought a weapon to school in one case and a man was outside the high school with a weapon in another.

“I thought this was normal,” she said. “That is not something anyone should have to normalize.”

About 100 turned out Saturday in Rockland to march to end gun violence. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

She argued this does not happen in other countries because they have the right laws to prevent it.

Gail Curtis, 17, of Camden Hills Regional High School argued that while millions of dollars are invested in preventing cancer and vehicle accidents, the second and third leading causes of death for young people in the United States, the same effort is not being put into dealing with the leading cause of death — gun violence.

She noted there have been 246 mass shootings in the United States so far this year.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden helped organize the march to end gun violence in Rockland. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

“Change can happen,” she said. “We just need to fight for it.”

She pointed to progress made in Britain and Australia where the governments responded to shootings in the 1980s and 1990s with swift and severe legislation to ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Those nations do not see the mass shootings that take place in the United States.

Those nations prioritize human life over possession of weapons, Curtis said.

Curtis also talked about how our culture of school shootings has affected the daily lives of the students. She said she has overheard students talking in the halls about where they would hide in a shooting, which teacher they thought might be able to best protect them, which students they thought most likely to carry out an attack. She said the students joked to hide the real terror they felt.

“I’ve had nightmares about school shootings,” she said. “So have many of my friends.”

Just recently, her school had a lockdown. She described the vice principal crying, the police chief being outside, while she was eyeing the closest exit, ready to text her parents that she loved them.

Lily Leeman, 14, of Brunswick Junior High School, said she organized a walk-out from her school after the recent shooting in Texas. She said she was then publicly criticized by Brogan Teel, Brunswick parent and Republican candidate for a seat in Maine State Senate District 23, who, according to the Times Record claimed the the protest was organized by a professional partisan, progressive group.”

Leeman was disappointed to be put down rather than supported by an adult leader in this way.

She spoke to the issue of guns in schools, saying she should be worried about her grades, not shootings. This was met by applause and support from the group gathered at the event.

“If we’re old enough to get shot, we’re old enough to have a voice,” she argued.

Rep. Ann Matlack, D-Spruce Head, speaks at the event to end gun violence June 11 in Rockland. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

Matlack said it was important to realize that this was not about the lack of prayer in schools. She also pointed out that this is a problem of racism. The recent shooting in Buffalo had taken place at a market in a black neighborhood with racial motivations.

District Attorney Natasha Irving thanked the young people who spoke and noted she has two little girls and is afraid of gun violence too. She said to young people, “You are the most important people on Earth,” and pledged that she and other adults were going to work really hard to make young people safe, while recognizing they are not safe now.

The Rev. Peter Jenks calls on America to repent of its idolatry of guns during a protest June 11 in Rockland. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

She echoed other speakers in pointing out that guns now kill more children than cancer and car crashes. She said gun violence is up 50 percent in the last decade and constitutes a public health crisis.

She said our society understands that driving is inherently dangerous and therefore heavily regulated. She said the same approach can be used concerning gun safety.

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