Students Speak Out Against Gun Violence at Prospect Park Rally

Students Speak Out Against Gun Violence at Prospect Park Rally
Students spoke out against gun violence at an afternoon rally in Prospect Park following the National School Walkout (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

Additional reporting by Zainab Iqbal

PROSPECT PARK – Yesterday afternoon, a couple hundred students gathered in the Prospect Park bandshell to continue protesting gun violence after the morning’s National Student Walk Out. The event, organized by Borough President Eric L. Adams, aimed to further the walkout’s goals with opportunities for students to speak out and take action.

Students trickled in starting around 2:00 pm as a DJ blasted deafening music, giving off a strange party vibe that was distinctly at odds with the serious concerns of the day. Tables and tents were set up along the perimeter of the venue, staffed by city workers encouraging students to engage.

There was a booth filled with poster board and markers where students could create signs and express their thoughts on gun violence, and another where they could write letters to their representatives, complete with signs listing the New York and national officials that took the most donations from the NRA.

Other booths offered students information on further civic engagement—though it was a decidedly low-traffic destination—or sought to register the 18-year olds to vote.

Around 3:00 pm, an event organizer called those who wished to speak to the stage, and more than twenty students immediately made their way forward for the opportunity to speak. The crowd, now in the hundreds, gathered together to watch the event, the students holding signs in their small cliques, still governed by the politics of high-school as they protested the national political situation.

Students lining up to speak at the rally (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

And even if they weren’t on stage, those in the crowd had plenty to say about gun violence in schools.

“The fact that these shootings can happen so quickly is ridiculous,” Oona Montandon, 13 years old said. “And not doing anything about it is mindblowing.”

Oona was chanting at the rally along with her father, Mac Montandon, and 11-year-old sister Daphne. She said the Parkland shooting hit close to home–Mac Montandon’s brother was shot and killed in 1992.

“It’s a national epidemic of gun violence and it’s about time meaningful change is brought about,” he said. “It’s time to stand on the right side of history.”

Montadon was far from the only parent out supporting the kids as they protested. Michelle Dale, a teacher at P.S.11., attended the rally with her children, one sleeping in the stroller as she spoke. As a teacher and parent, she said, it’s really important to show support.

South Brooklyn resident Maria Milin was at the rally with her daughter as well. “It’s amazingly inspiring and very hopeful,” she said of the young speakers. “Our future is in a good place. Look how articulate and powerful their words are.”

Even at 11 years old, Rohan Gelber-Higgins was ready to speak out, holding three posters and chanting along with those fathered. Rohan was at the event to stop gun violence in schools, he told us. “Nobody should be shot in a school—it’s a place of learning not killing,” he said.

The young student even had a message for Trump: “Since you’re president, don’t send thoughts and prayers. Do something.”

Onstage, student leaders spoke for a number of causes—from the Young Voter Act of Bobby Carroll to the Black Lives Matter movement—but the main point was the same: young people have power and they know what’s right.

While a wayward group of communists tried to encourage the students not to vote (the revolution was in the street, they claimed), most of the speakers wanted political engagement from their fellows—the children born in the year 2000 are now getting ready to vote, and if they can turn their mobilization today into results at the polls, November could prove to be an interesting time in American politics.

Students will have more chances to organize this spring, as the March for Our Lives is set for March 24, and another school walkout for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

“Change starts with those who show up,” a student speaker reminded those present. And if yesterday’s rally was any indication, the kids are showing up, and they’re bringing change with them.

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