By Tessa Osteen
Hundreds of Benicians joined together on Saturday, March 24 rallying one common message: to keep schools safe from guns. During the rally, held at the Benicia City Park, Mayor Elizabeth Patterson pointed out how the last rally that took place in Benicia was during World War 2, making it over 70 years since the streets were taken to exercise the public’s First Amendment rights. The march, along with 800 similar marches from around the world, was entirely organized by teens outraged about the gun violence plaguing this country. Beginning at the First Street Green, it comprised of the old and young, all uniting to chant catchy, yet longing, phrases like, “Spread love, not hate. We just want to graduate!”
Ending at the gazebo in City Park, the rally officially started when Vice Mayor Steve Young listed the names of the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and instructed people to hold a moment of silence for those children. Passing off the microphone to Benicia High senior Shawna Williams, she questioned, “What 18-year-old needs a gun, let alone a weapon of war? We’ve seen what semi-automatic weapons can do, so why are they still being sold?” Liam Madigan, a Benicia High junior, added, “Unlike cars, guns exist for one reason and one reason only: to kill.” Many other students also voiced their opinions on the pressing matter of guns.
A spark of activism is spreading amongst young people across the country. Steve Young acknowledged this, describing the younger generation as being “woke.” Aside from the rally, there were local organizations at the site, including the League of Women’s Voters, the Progressive Democrats of Benicia, etc., encouraging students, over the age of 16, and adults to register or pre-register to vote.
Reminding people that this issue of gun violence in schools is a safety matter and not a political issue has more people supporting the march. Young people who are standing up and calling out their leaders like Marco Rubio for staying stagnant deserve all the recognition. People discredit these teens and say they are apathetic and do not understand complex issues. In retaliation to that statement, Karah Fisher, a Benicia High senior, declared at the end of her speech, “Today, we march. November, we vote.”