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Protest to end gun violence extends to Claremont

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

On Saturday afternoon, about 30 residents from around the city and Inland Empire occupied the four corners of Indian Hill and Foothill boulevards, raising their voices and signs calling for an end to gun violence.

Saturday’s protest was organized by Indivisible Claremont / Inland Valley Action Group and was Claremont’s local March for Our Life protest. March For Our Lives came about after survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida organized a demonstration in Washington D.C. back in 2018 in hopes of passing gun reform.

Not much has changed since then, and after an 18-year-old male, armed with two AR-15 style rifles, massacred 19 children and their two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas on May 24, the Parkland students put together a second March for Our Lives protest to be held on June 11.

Protests were held throughout Los Angeles County, California, and the nation.

Claremont’s protest kicked off at 1 p.m. with five protestors, one of which was Alex

Fite of Upland, who was there advocating for gun reform for the entire 90-minute protest.

“I think gun reform is just one part of the aspect of the violence that we see and crime that we need to address,” Fite said. “Obviously this protest is coming out in the wake of the Texas school shooting, but there’s a lot of victims to gun violence. Women, children, men, it’s really an epidemic in America.”

Outside of Sherwood Florist, Pomona resident Suzanne Donnelly, alongside her friends and San Dimas residents Carol Bowe and Judy Ochsner, was also there protesting.

Donnelly said, “It’s depressing that we have to be out here and that nothing changed after Parkland.”

It happens “over and over and over again and because of how our politics are structured, even though a majority of the country supports sensible restrictions on guns….we just can’t get there and it’s time for the needle to move,” Donnelly added.

Donnelly and other protestors said in order for gun reform to get passed, advocates need to vote this upcoming Midterm cycle for elected officials making it their priority.

But she also wanted to share that gun violence advocates should not get caught up in trying to pass gun reform in one-fell swoop, noting it takes baby steps to perform change.

“I think getting caught up in the ‘Oh we’ll never pass the big legislation that we want,’ shouldn’t prevent us from advocating for even small change,” Donnelly said. “If we save even a few lives, that’s better than where we are now.”

Victoria Bhavsar, a Claremonter part of the leadership team for Indivisible Claremont / Inland Valley Action Group, helped organized the local March For Our Lives protest. She said her personal take home message for participants of the protests was that if we value human life, then we need to get serious about “our very toxic relationship with guns.”

“I think that because [gun violence] is a national issue, then every citizen has a responsibility and the right, and the privilege, to speak up,” Bhavsar said. “I do hope and will continue to work for positive change in this regard.”

She added that if citizens don’t try for any sort of gun reform, then we won’t achieve any sort of reform.

Although Bhavsar shared that she has not been affected directly by gun violence, she believes all have been affected indirectly in some way usually after news breaks of another mass shooting.

“The tragedies and the heartbreak, and the fear, affect everyone,” she said.

Indeed they have, including some children present at the protest like 14-year-old Luke Beardsley. Luke, who protested alongside his family, had a sign which read: “Student checklist: schedule [check], lunchbox [check], bullet-proof backpack [check].”

“I’m starting high school next year, and I’m just scared that something is going to happen,” Luke said about his sign. The incoming Alta Loma High School freshman shared the fear of his school potentially becoming another site of a school shooting has prompted him and his friends to invest in bullet-proof backpacks.

Asked if he’s scared to go to school, Luke said, “I shouldn’t be. No kid should be scared to go to school. I just don’t want to get shot.

I feel like a kid shouldn’t have to wear a bullet-proof backpack to school,” Luke added.

Among the shaded protestors was a group of mothers and mental health therapists, April Fissel and Heather Kurera of Claremont, and Eve Blum of Burbank.

The mothers shared that the ongoing threat and unpredictability of gun violence around the nation has them not just concerned about their child’s safety, but has imprinted on them a constant fear that gun violence is inevitable in their cities.

“We’re safe…until we’re not,” Fissel said. “We’re sitting here with this illusion of safety until one of these thousands of people with too many guns and too many rounds decides that they’re upset and walks into one of the schools, walks into Trader Joe’s.  I think it’s an illusion to think anyone is safe.”

Fissel added that in order to get those on the other side of the issue to walk with gun violence protestors, both sides need to understand what the other truly wants and work towards protecting our children and each other from gun violence.

While protestors like the ones interviewed called for common sense laws and gun reform to be passed by Congress, not a single one told the COURIER or alluded to taking away citizens’ guns or one’s right to bear arms.

“I hope the people that are against people who are for gun reform, I hope they can understand that we just want things to be safer. We don’t want to take anyone’s rights away,” Fite said.

On Sunday, June 12, a meeting was hosted at Lewis Park to discuss fundraising support for the Brady United Against Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety. The meeting was titled Claremonters for Sensible Firearm Regulation.

For more information about March for Our Lives, visit https://marchforourlives.com.

 

 

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