The “March For Our Lives” takes place in various cities across the country this weekend. In Connecticut, Tyler Suarez, a freshman at the University of Bridgeport helped put together the march in Hartford.
Suarez’s aunt was Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown - she was killed in the massacre there in 2012. At the time, Suarez was in 8th grade. Since then, Suarez has become a voice in his community, speaking on gun violence and he hopes this demonstration helps steer the conversation in the right direction.
“The thing that is going to come out of this march is feeling that we are not alone -- and all of us together, if we use our voices, we can change things,” he said “The government works for us, they don’t work for special interest groups.”
The Facebook event group page shows 11,000 people are interested in the event as of March 23, something Suarez never imagined possible but he said people are worried about their lives and that’s why they want to speak up.
“We all kind of live in fear now,” Suarez said. “It’s a very different lifestyle of going to school, playing in your yard. It doesn’t matter where you live.”
The march will have different speakers, one of them is Elizabeth Charah, the president of UConn Against Gun Violence
A Newtown native, Charash was a junior in high school a little less than two miles down the road, from where the Sandy Hook shooting was happening.
She said that changed her life and why she funded the group on campus.
For Charash, who now is writing her thesis on the Gun Control Act of 1968, the conversation needs to be broader.
“It’s not just the gun laws that need to change but the culture that surrounds guns and surrounds gun violence -- and recognizing that it is not just Newtown, but it’s also Hartford and New Britain, and New Haven and other urban centers in the state and across the country,” she said.
One of the aims of the march is to mobilize young people. Suarez said there will be voter registration drives so people act on their convictions.
“March For Our Lives is really neat because it’s about students,” he said. “There’s an incredible student who organized the one in Connecticut and there’s incredible students who are organizing across the country. I think what’s really important about that march in particular is that students have power. Our presence has power but also what we do after the march is very important.”
After the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, Florida, the conversation was about turning the shooting into a political issue to get change.
Charash said guns have always been political but not as much as today, and Sandy Hook was a turning point for that.