By Richard MacTough
Over a hundred activists gathered in front of Monroe County Courthouse this past Saturday for the March for Our Lives rallies.
East Stroudsburg University College Democrats President Brooke Todd, and Indivisible Poconos organized the march in response to gun violence and recent mass shootings.
“It’s so great seeing not only us, but 800 towns and cities coming together in solidarity. I would like to start with a moment of silence for the 17 we lost in Parkland,” said Todd.
The main march happened in Washington, D.C. led by activist Emma Gonzalez and other Stoneman Douglas school shooting survivors. All 50 states held sister protests in solitary according to VOX.
Jessica DePete and Kate Bullard were at the march on behalf of Indivisible Poconos, a coalition of citizens and activist in the 10th and 17th Congressional District of Pa.
“We want assault rifle bans and universal background checks,” DePete said. “Close the loopholes.”
The referred “loopholes” are certain aspects and laws that make it easier for an individual to buy weapons at gun shows.
The crowd had a moment of silence for the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Fl. on Valentine’s Day.
“Originally, I was going to Washington D.C. at the rally there,” Todd said. “I met with Indivisible Poconos and they helped me set this up. I thought, why not more locally? These students are literally my future. It was so awesome watching them come out here and saying what they have to say.”
Many students from local high schools participated in the march. They discussed how much they loved their school and could not fathom the idea of a shooting occurring there.
“The people that are shooting and killing should have never been handed guns,” said Stroudsburg, Mayor Tarah Probst. “This is a domino effect. Nobody should have a gun that hunts humans. I do believe in the second amendment, but I do not believe that you should be allowed to walk around with a military type weapon,” said Probst.
As well as new gun laws, Probst advocated for more efficient mental health care in Monroe County.
Linda Kozic talked about a surviving a mass shooting that happened in a municipal building in 2013.
A gunman fired an AR-15 and .44 Magnum Revolver during a public meeting of township supervisors. Three people were killed including Linda Kozic’s husband Gerard Kozic and friend James “Vinny” LaGuardia. She thought eighteen minutes into the meeting that the lights were short circuiting in the building before her husband told her it was gunfire.
“The gun was firing into one of the windows and inside the building,” Linda said. “We were sitting underneath the lights that were shattering. At that point my husband pushed me down and the level of panic in the room was incredible.”
She recalled running with her husband towards the stairs and was shot with an AR-15 in her leg.
“Anything the weapon hits turns into gel. Bone turns to dust,” said Linda Kozic.
She showed the crowd to look at the damage the weapon had done to her leg. The gunman attempted to shoot her in the face when her husband jumped in front of her and was shot instead. She told the protestors her husband was dead before he hit the ground.
“It is a horrible thing to be shot by any weapon, but to watch your loved one die knowing they made the choice to risk their life hoping you have a chance to survive is beyond anything you can imagine,” Linda said. “No child should go to school to get an education an end up in a body bag.”
Sharon Griswold, an educator at Stroudsburg High School, recalled her son’s concerns after the 1999 Columbine shooting that left 15 people dead including the perpetrators.
Her son was ten years old at the time.
“He was old enough to know what was happening,” Griswold said.
“That night as I put him to bed he hugged me hard, and he said ‘mom don’t go to school tomorrow because I am afraid. And because I know you’ll step in front of your kids.’ And he was right.”
She spoke about the importance of responsibilities teachers have for new students coming in their classroom at the beginning of each school year.
“Every single year teachers get a new group that is our kids. It doesn’t matter that they are not our biological children. We would do anything to save them. But we shouldn’t have to. It’s time to make a change,” said Griswold.
Bill “Pappy” Mercer was a veteran during the Vietnam War in attendance in support for gun control and legislation. He advised to the marchers that AR-15 are not sporting rifles and called them “weapons of mass destruction.”
“They are no different than nerve gas or atomic bombs.
They are designed for lethal damage beyond imagination,” said Mercer.
He believes weapons such as an AR-15 should only be in the hands of law enforcement and the military. Demonstrators marched from Monroe County Courthouse on to Main Street passing several of the stores including Dunkelberger’s sell’s assault-type weapons.
An elementary school child spoke in front the store and had the crowd chant “enough is enough.”
Todd believes in the importance of young activists speaking out in the wake of the current political climate. Not only was it the largest protest in a single day protest, but is one of the biggest youth protests since the Vietnam War.
“There needs to be students younger than college students saying their word, rather than just adults and college students,” said Todd.
After the recent mass shooting, the store has stopped selling assault weapons to individuals under the age of 21.
Over 800 demonstrations took place across the country this past weekend. Washington D.C. had over 800,000 protestors alone. “This is so encouraging,” DePete said.”
We are standing here in our own community right in Stroudsburg. We are also here in solidarity with millions of people across the country and saying, ‘enough is enough.’”
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