More than 5,000 marched from Congress Square Park to city hall this morning in a worldwide rally in support of gun safety laws to stop mass school shootings and to target the National Rifle Association, “NRA” for its control over politicians. Off in the distance marchers could hear the church bells ringing at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church that lasted for about l/2 hour. It took the marchers that long to get to city hall – chanting as they went against the NRA: “how many kids have you killed today” and “the NRA has to go.”
The march organized by students from Portland schools was in memory of the 17 victims of last months mass shooting in Parkland, Florida and in support of gun laws to prevent any more school shootings.
Ten speakers took turns at the podium outside City Hall addressing the much larger than expected crowd that extended as far as one could see in all directions from the steps of city hall. It was a warmish day in Portland – temps in the low 40s and most of the snow from previous storms melted away to make the march easier to navigate.
Kasper Wilder, 16, a student at Portland High School, said in part: “I believe in the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees us the right to liberty, but it also guarantees us the right to life. I remember learning about Patrick Henry’s fiery words ………I believe that every person has the right to lay down their life for what they believe. But not a single person has the right to lay down the lives of others.”
“The days of the NRA are numbered in the State of Maine and over in the city of Portland,” said Shaman Kirkland, a member of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, to the crowed jammed into City Hall Plaza. “We have the power to vote and I for one won’t vote for anyone who won’t stand for our communities.”
“Some say banning assault weapons will not solve the problem. But they are wrong,” said Hamdia Ahmed, an organizer of the march today. “We will vote you out.”
As the crowd dispersed, some attended a catered reception at the historic First Parish Unitarian Universalist, 425 Congress Street, organized by Angus Ferguson, a church member.