The March for Our Lives rally at the state Capitol on March 24. (Photo by Ali Hibbs)
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ALBANY — This Friday, April 20, on the 19th anniversary of the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, hundreds of thousands of students will be coming together to, yet again, make their voices heard on the issue of gun control.
This Friday’s demonstration, scheduled just days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla., was intended to coincide with the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre, in which 15 people died and 24 were injured. It was one of the first in a seemingly continuous series of similar events that have sparked national debate over gun control laws, high school social culture and bullying.
The event on Friday is being organized by Bethlehem High School senior Lydia Martell, who also helped to organize the March For Our Lives event, which took place on Saturday, March 24 and drew thousands of supporters. She has been working with students from other area high schools to organize speakers, which will include two students from Marjory Stoneman High School as well as local lawmakers and political leaders. There will also be a 13-minute lie-in to commemorate the thirteen innocents who lost their lives at Columbine, a march, voter registration and live music provided by Bethlehem High School students.
It was an organizer from Columbia High School, said Martell, who reached out to Parkland students on Twitter to invite someone to come speak at the event. She was put in contact with two students who were available and expressed interest, and flight details were finalized in mid-April. A Bethlehem parent donated frequent flyer miles to fly them here for free, she said appreciatively. A gofundme page was set up to pay for the cost of lodging the pair, and had exceeded its $1,000 goal by Monday, April 16. Both students have been actively speaking out against gun violence and advocating for more restrictive laws since tragedy stuck their school on Valentine’s Day of this year.
On the west lawn of the state Capitol, students, teachers and advocates will once again gather, speak in favor of increased gun control regulation and demand safer schools. While the national plan calls for high school students to walk out of their schools on April 20 at 10 a.m. and for the remainder of the day (some gun control advocates have gone so far as to suggest that students walk out indefinitely, until more restrictive legislation is passed by Congress), Lydia said local students felt that bringing the fight to the seat of state government would amplify their message more effectively.
This past weekend, at the same time as the Albany March for Science was taking place at the Capitol, hundreds of demonstrators also gathered to express support for Second Amendment freedoms and the right to carry weapons. Armed with signs reading, “An armed woman is a safe woman,” and opposing the SAFE Act, marchers called for Cuomo’s ouster and insisted that the issue is about more than guns. According to the Second Amendment advocates, less gun control regulation is about things like civic duty, protecting one’s family and resisting government oppression.
“Let me remind everyone that it was America’s youth that led the fight for civil rights,” Martell said to a crowd of thousands during the March For Our Lives event. “It was America’s youth that protested for peace in Vietnam. And it’s America’s youth that is fighting for gun control.”