UNION, NJ – More than 500 students, parents, public officials, and activists marched and gathered in Union Saturday morning for the Union County ‘March for Our Lives’ event. The student-led march, which called on the U.S. government for stricter gun laws and memorialized the 17 people killed in Parkland, FL, last month, was one of hundreds of 'March for Our Lives' events around the nation.
Beginning at Burnet Middle School, the hundreds of marchers strode up Morris Avenue, chanting “enough is enough”, “this is what democracy looks like", and "come November, we'll remember."
The event was led by student organizer Colin Sumner, a 16-year old sophomore from Westfield, with the support of Senator Joseph Cryan, Moms Demand Action, Union County Chapter, and the Union County Freeholders.
“Students are the reason for change – the change we will be seeing in the near future,” said Sumner. “Today we stand here in solidarity for all of the victims of school shootings.”
“As a parent raising two small children, I’m at a loss at the realization that, because of the world we live in, there now exists a fear that our children may not even make it home from school,” said Union Mayor Suzette Cavadas. “It’s a realization so powerful that it could render a person hopeless and incapable. But after seeing so many of you here today – students, parents, activists – I’m reminded that we are not alone in this fight.”
“I’m proud to be here in Union County today to say, enough is enough,” said Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. “Ninety-three Americans are killed by guns each day.” Payne said more than 26,000 children and teenagers under the age of 18 were killed by guns in the United States between 1999 and 2016. “Guns have killed more Americans at home than in war. What does that say about our government.” Payne went on to say, “nobody wants your guns. The Second Amendment is clear. But nobody needs an AR15 that was meant to kill people.”
Union High School student Abby Hagen spoke to the crowd. “In the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, it is promising to see a such a strong presence of activists and community members coming together to change the world we live in. The students and residents in New Jersey and around the country are being heard.”
“I apologize to the young people out there because we adults haven’t heard you,” said Cryan. “We have not listened. It’s up to us together to change the fear you are facing now.”
Also attending the march were State Senator Nicholas Scutari, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Cranford Mayor Thomas Hannen, Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese, Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson, Assemblyman Jamel Holley, and Union County Freeholders Sergio Granados, Bruce Bergen, Alexander Mirabella, and Angel Estrada.
"This reminds me of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, 'Teach Your Children,'" said Hannen. "In the second stanza, the song says, 'teach your parents well'. That's what this is about."
“What I keep hearing and what disturbs me most,” said Scutari, “is not ‘if’, but ‘when’ and that is an absolutely unacceptable statement as an elected official. You need to continue to raise your voices and raise your hands. Enough is enough.”
“After all that has gone on, you would think that our government would do something,” said Linden High School student and steering committee member Isabella Suarez. “But, no. Once again, a gun is a priority over a child’s life.”