Content Warning: The following article contains mention of death and gun violence. To speak with Counseling and Psychological Services, please call (609) 258-3141.
Following the loss of 21 lives in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Princeton students and community members have come together, advocating for gun reform and rallying for the national movement against gun violence.
On June 11, the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) led the “Rally Against Mass Shootings & America’s Gun Violence Epidemic” in Hinds Plaza. That same day, a group of Princeton students joined the thousands of protestors with March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Both rallies were a part of a Day of Action in nearly 500 U.S. cities coordinated by March for Our Lives, the youth-led gun violence prevention group formed after the Parkland, Fla. mass shooting that killed 17 high school students in 2018.
According to CFPA Executive Director Reverend Robert Moore in an interview with The Daily Princetonian, around 350 people attended the rally in Princeton.
Attendees of the Princeton rally held up signs; heard from survivors of gun violence, elected officials, and faith leaders; and chanted slogans such as “guns are bad.” U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) was present at the protest.
New Jersey State Senator Andrew Zwicker spoke about the state’s efforts towards eliminating gun violence.
“We need to keep our communities safe from this epidemic which is gun violence,” Zwicker said. “While Congress gives us hopes and prayers, here in New Jersey, we give action.”
“We need to vote and we need to lobby,” Moore said at the protest.
In a press release before the rally, Moore emphasized the importance of harnessing the energy of the moment toward advocating for real change.
“We invite[d] everyone to come together to mourn, but even more important, be empowered to unite to stop and reverse the surging epidemic of gun violence across our nation,” he said. “One near-term action that will be advocated is active support for a package of eight new gun safety bills to make New Jersey’s already strict laws even stronger.”
In Washington, D.C., over 50 University students participated in the March for Our Lives rally.
“Many [Princeton students], including myself, attended the original March for Our Lives events in our hometowns four years ago,” Mary Elizabeth Marquardt ’23 wrote in a message to the ‘Prince.’
“I think we were all inspired to attend by the same guiding principle: we’re angry that nothing has been done to solve this incredibly pressing issue over the last four years and we are incredibly ready to see change,” she added.
Co-president of Princeton Against Gun Violence (PAGV) Julia Elman ’23 detailed a notable and frightening moment from the rally in D.C. in an email to the ‘Prince.’
“During the moment of silence for gun violence victims, someone at the front of the rally ran at the stage, causing mass hysteria as someone nearby interpreted his yells as ‘I have a gun’ (he was actually shouting ‘I am a god’),” Elman wrote. “Unfortunately, our group was close to the front of the rally, meaning we all had to flatten ourselves to the ground. My co-president, Ana Blanco [’23], told everyone to get down, and as my confusion surpassed, I remembered that laying on the ground during a shooting is better than running, so as to not get shot in the back.”
For Elman and many others at the rally, she said, “the threat played into our greatest fears.” She said she hopes those impacted are “taking care of themselves and healing this week.”
Speakers for the D.C. protest included March for Our Lives co-founders David Hogg and X Gonzalez, lawmakers, and other gun violence survivors.
“The most impactful speech was Cori Bush discussing her own experience with gun violence,” Paul-Louis Biondi ’24 wrote in a message to the ‘Prince.’
Moving forward, Elman said PAGV continues to advocate for gun reform. But their efforts, and those of groups like theirs, face unique challenges.
“As gun violence prevention advocates, it’s draining to see an increase in passion and interest after a tragic event, only for it to fizzle out as another disaster around the world occurs and becomes the focus of our attention,” Elman said. “But we keep fighting. The recent marches give us hope — we cared four years ago and we still care now.”
A recording of the Princeton protest can be accessed here.
Lia Opperman is an Assistant News Editor who often covers University affairs, student life, and local news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram @liamariaaaa, or on Twitter @oppermanlia.