Marching in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of teenagers around the world, more than 3,000 people joined Saturday in downtown Bend to protest gun violence in schools.
The crowd of passionate protesters gathered in Bend’s Drake Park and made their way through the downtown area. There were so many people in the march, which stretched from the park to Newport Avenue and down Bond Street, that people were starting it while others were finishing.
The huge turnout in Bend was one of over 800 student-led March for Our Lives demonstrations Saturday. The marches were inspired by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died Feb. 14 when a gunman opened fire at the Parkland, Florida, campus. After the shooting, surviving students said “enough” and started an anti-gun conversation that led to the marches. Each march addressed the prevalence of school shootings and called for lawmakers to pass gun-control legislation.
Brandon Roberts, 15, a sophomore at Redmond Proficiency Academy, came to the march in Bend with a group of classmates.
Roberts, who held a sign reading, “Your AR-15 is not equivalent to my safety,” said he hoped the march would create publicity and show lawmakers how students feel.
“We are the next generation of voters, and if we don’t do something about it, no one will,” he said. “I can vote in 2020, and you bet I will vote in 2020. So be ready for that.”
One of Roberts’ classmates, Natalie Lawton, 15, a freshman at the proficiency academy, brought a sign with a line from the popular play “Hamilton.” It read, “Don’t be shocked when your history book mentions me.”
“Our generation is going to change the world,” Lawton said.
Bend resident Annie Simmons attended the march with her daughter, Grace Kelley, a sixth-grader at Westside Village Magnet School. Kelley held a sign that read, “Fix this before I text my mom from under a desk.”
Simmons said she bought some supplies so her daughter and her friends could make signs, but left them alone to come up with thoughts and ideas.
Seeing what her daughter wrote on her sign made Simmons emotional, she said.
“It makes me cry,” she said.
Kelley said her goal of marching with friends and her mother was to save lives.
“Many, many other countries have had shootings and introduced gun control and then had no more after that,” she said.
The march in Bend drew more than students. Bend Mayor Casey Roats, City Councilor Nathan Boddie and Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel were in attendance, along with locals of all ages.
Retired Bend couple Don and Pat Minney marched with their friend, Colleen Shearer.
The couple, who have grandchildren at Sisters Middle School, said they were impressed the local students organized and attended the march and also participated in a walkout during school on March 14. Hundreds of students in Central Oregon walked out of class at high schools and middle schools to protest, in part, the lack of gun control legislation.
“A lot of them are going to be voting in the next election,” Pat Minney said.
Babs Stevens, a mother of a 16-year-old Summit High School student and seventh-grader at Waldorf School of Bend, marched with her seventh-grade daughter and a group of friends.
Stevens said she doesn’t want students to be worried about their safety when they go to school.
Before too long, these students will be able to vote and will be able to shape their future, Stevens said.
“I’m encouraging these kids to stand up for what they believe in and make a difference,” she said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, email@example.com