From the steps of Buffalo City Hall Saturday, the student-led March for Our Lives movement for stricter gun control made its mark – drawing 3,000 people, including two surviving students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting rampage, to a rally and march in Niagara Square.
Survivors Justin Colton, who was wounded by two bullets, and Ryan Walsh were in the area with their families for a hockey tournament, and showed their support with Western New York students, parents and many others.
Colton was touched by the support he witnessed in Buffalo, noting that the day of the shooting "was crazy." "We should never have to go through that," he said. "We need people to actually do something."
"These two young men are another powerful example of why we need gun reform right now," Mayor Byron W. Brown said. "It is our duty as a community to ensure that their voices are heard, and for them to know that in Buffalo and Western New York, we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in this movement. Protecting our students and community is a responsibility that falls upon all of us. The federal government must listen to the public outcry for change. They must enact responsible gun control legislation.”
Marchers shouted loud chants of "End Gun Violence" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go," with many carrying homemade signs, one resonating a common theme: "Fear Has No Place in Schools."
Amherst High School student Teresa Gutierrez, 16, said she was afraid to go to school after the Parkland, Fla., shootings. "It could be us. We could be next," said Gutierrez, who attended with her mother, Vicki Vigarito of Snyder. "I don't want to end up in a body bag and I don't want my friends to end up in a body bag."
Vigarito was impressed with what she saw in the students. "They had great signs and great energy," she said. "They want to be valued, more than the guns are valued. These are a bunch of people who will vote soon and they will not forget."
"I'm thankful we had the opportunity to speak up for what we believe in," said Maureen O'Malley from Williamsville South High School. "We're fighting for regulation, not to eliminate guns. Nobody should have a military-grade weapon."
Williamsville South student Delaney Govenettio, 17, said the issue extends far beyond "left" and "right" on the political spectrum. "It's about our lives versus people who believe their guns are more important," she said.
Anne Kaczynski of Buffalo was active in protests of the 1960s, during the civil rights movement and Vietnam War. "Good for the kids. We need their strength," she said of the movement for greater gun control.
The top of City Hall was lit in orange Saturday in recognition of the nationwide anti-gun violence initiative.