More than 1,000 people came to Rehoboth Beach March 24 to take part in the March For Our Lives, a national movement to end gun violence, while 500 more people participated in a similar march in Lewes. At both marches, young people demanded legislators do more than offer thoughts and prayers.
“We don’t need the prayers. We don’t need your thoughts. We need something to be done,” said Odel Ozbay, 13, among many young people who later addressed the crowd. “It’s so repetitive, and it’s so tiring to mourn and feel fear.”
Odel, who attends Providence Creek Academy in Clayton, said she has experienced gun violence through the accidental shooting death of a mentor, and again through a recent shooting threat at her school in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead. She said she was inspired by the activism of the teens in Florida who are speaking up.
“I was always afraid to use my voice because I didn’t think I was old enough, or people wouldn’t think I knew what I was talking about. But, seeing all the other kids using their voice and making a change, I thought this could have been a start for me. I can say something for once. I’ve been in this experience, and I want to make my voice heard,” she said.
Russell Mojcher, 71, was right there with Odel and other teens who came to the march.
“I’m sick of the violence. If we can’t protect our children, what does that say about us? They’re our future. We have to stop the violence,” he said.
Mojcher said it was inspiring and gratifying to see a younger generation taking the lead on ending gun violence.
“They know this is going to be a long fight. And they know this isn’t going to happen right away. But they’re going to register to vote. Their voices are going to be heard. And that’s wonderful,” he said.
Jasmine Finney, 12, a student at Beacon Middle School in Lewes, said of taking part in the march, “I’m doing it for us because I don’t know if I’ll be the next person to be targeted. I want to show everyone that I’m there for them.”
Jasmine and Zoe Watson, 13, students at Sanford School in Hockessin, said they had participated in active shooter drills, which, in light of the shooting in Parkland, left them afraid of what could happen.
“It shouldn’t have to be practiced,” Zoe said.
Jayden Lesko, 16, a student at Cape Henlopen High School, said, “It’s just too much. We shouldn’t have shootings every couple months in every year. I just want safety for our schools and action to be brought.”
The students at Parkland and in the crowd in Rehoboth were not even born at the time of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Many of them expressed disappointment that nothing was done then and nothing has been done now.
“It’s infuriating,” Jayden said.
“That’s kind of letting that same bully punch you, and punch you, and punch you again, until you’re just breaking down,” Odel said. “It’s tiring.”
The march in Rehoboth was organized by Elyse Moore, Kathleen Schell and Sarah Healy, three moms who also grew sick and tired of seeing gun violence in schools after the Parkland shooting.
Healy said she was amazed by the turnout at the event.
“We are just beyond thrilled to have this much community support, and to have everyone rallying around the children. Knowing the swell in ground support that is here is going to help make a change and keep our children safe. That is the goal,” she said.
“I, as an adult, have let these children down in these other shootings. No more,” Healy added.
The march started at the Silver Lake tot lot, went up Stockley Street to the Boardwalk and on to the Bandstand. Organizers signed up 1,000 people online, but handed out 1,200 signs at the event, and that does not include people who brought their own signs. At the Bandstand, there were two counter-demonstrators displaying a Gadsden flag with the “Don’t Tread On Me” snake.
Among those in attendance were U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, state Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, Rehoboth Commissioner Kathy McGuiness and Rehoboth Mayor Paul Kuhns, who was stunned by the number of people who came for the march.
“It’s a little bit bigger than we first thought,” Kuhns said. “We thought maybe there would be 50 or 100, and maybe more. I think it brings attention to things that people care about in our society. It’s a very successful and peaceful march.”
The local marches were among more than 800 marches across the country organized after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla.