Decorated cardboard and poster boards held by people of all ages flooded the Pavilion in the Oconee Veterans Park on Saturday, March 24.
These signs were in support of the March for Our Lives movement, a nationwide movement in response to the increase in mass shootings and advocating for tighter gun control legislation.
Children, parents, grandparents and residents of Oconee and neighboring counties listened to several speakers, from political figures to high school students, deliver passionate speeches about how proud they were of their community speaking up and marching in protest of gun rights.
Several members of the audience carried signs with quotes such as “How many more must die” and “Enough is enough” written on them.
A major theme for the event was coming together as one and meeting new people to share ideas.
Georgia State District 119 Rep. Jonathan Wallace said the purpose of today’s rally was to develop relationship and to talk about solutions that will keep kids safe in school.
During the first hour and a half, speakers talked about the tragedy of school shootings, ways to prevent it from happening, elections coming up and the importance of speaking out.
One of the first speakers, Chalis Montgomery, a Democratic candidate for Georgia's 10th Congressional District, became emotional as she recounted a personal experience with her cousin, who was shot and killed in the pulpit as he was preaching.
“I want to stand in solidarity with the Parkland students. We’ve been in high school and know what that’s like, and I don’t think kids should be put in that place.”
- Thao Le, recent graduate from UGA
She began talking about Tom Dorsey, a famous musician, and how he was her reflection in her time of mourning at that time before singing his song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Collective voices filled the pavilion as some of the audience joined in singing along.
Other representatives spoke on their pride in the communities’ involvement, for standing up and for speaking out.
“One of these things that I am so proud of are these students who have stood up," said Georgia State District 117 Rep. Deborah Gonzalez. "On March 14, I was very proud to be a part of a group of legislators that walked out of the chambers in support of them walking out of their schools."
Student speakers voiced their concerns with school shootings and how it affects their safety.
“I am around several students everyday that just don’t make good decisions, and I can guarantee you that a student will think they’re being funny, they’re messing with the guard, maybe they’re pretending they have a gun when they really don’t, and there will be a guard that shoots a student,” said Whit Lill, a student from North Oconee High School.
Attendees showed their support for students in the Parkland, Florida, shooting who lost their friends and classmates in the latest mass shooting on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School.
“One of these things that I am so proud of are these students who have stood up."
- Deborah Gonzalez, Georgia representative
“I want to stand in solidarity with the Parkland students," University of Georgia graduate Thao Le said. "We’ve been in high school and know what that’s like, and I don’t think kids should be put in that place."
A postcard-making station was set up for attendees to make postcards to send to legislators. Markers and pens were laid out for kids and adults to voice their opinion to those in power.
“Our goal is to create opportunities for people to communicate directly to their legislators through postcards, which is not as intimidating as a letter or email or a phone call,” said Hilda Kurtz, organizer of the postcard booth.
Regardless of opinions on how the problem of school shootings should be solved, attendees agreed there needed to be change.
“You can sit at home and think that for people in the south, everyone loves their gun, but you come out and see that actually there’s a lot of people who have the same viewpoints and want to see change and are scared about kids dying in school,” said Mandy Stinson, an Oconee resident.