Bay Area Marches for Our Lives

Indivisible East Bay members attended March for Our Lives events in several locations in the East Bay and beyond on March 24; here are some of their impressions.

Richmond

Tom Janci: We attended the March For Our Lives event in Richmond. Organizers estimate almost 1,000 people turned out to show support for the young people who organized such an incredible event. It was incredibly moving to hear their stories. It was also a good reminder that our children are not just our future – they are our NOW. City and county elected officials as well as State Senator Nancy Skinner and Representative Mark DeSaulnier attended the event.

March for our Lives, Richmond, photo by Alice Towey
March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Alice Towey

George McRae: I went to the March for Our Lives in Richmond. The March started at the intersection of Nevin and Harbour Way, opposite Kaiser Hospital, which treats its share of gunshot victims, and ended at City Hall Plaza, where government officials and the community work to mitigate gun violence. Along the route, one could look up at the lamp and power poles and see the “shot spotter” equipment … they’re everywhere in Richmond.  I listened to the speakers, those whose lives were directly impacted and those who have been elected to legislate gun violence out of existence. I can say with complete certainty whose reflections impacted me most. The names of Richmond victims were read in between the speakers. The list went on … and on …  I left carrying the memory of people I have lost to gun violence. None of us are immune. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as an American,  YOU have a 99.85% chance of knowing someone victimized by gun violence in your lifetime.  These children know they are in the gun sights, and it’s up to all of us to make the elected people do OUR bidding, not the NRA’s. Enough.

March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Heidi Rand
March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Heidi Rand
Catherine de Neergaard: It was a really sweet march and rally on 3/24 in Richmond, California to stop gun violence. At about 3000 people, it was a more accessible, intimate, and quieter event than the much larger rallies in SF and Oakland. I liked that. There was space to be able to hear and chat with old buddies, neighbors and new people too. About 25 people from Indivisible East Bay met at the beginning of the March. It was wonderful seeing the children and young people some of whom made speeches or read poems.
Sixteen year old Shelton McAdoo opened the rally with a moving speech. Interspersed with the speeches, names of those slain in gun violence were read. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia both made short, passionate speeches supporting the young people to lead this country to end gun violence. Towards the end, there was an open mike. I made a brief speech about the many new laws we need to control guns and stop gun violence, including the need to permit and fund the national health agency, the CDC, to do research on the health effects of gun violence, and the need for a national database of guns, gun owners, and gun sales. Indivisible East Bay, Rich City RIDES, and Citizens Power Network were doing voter registration. IEB and League of Women Voters had petitions to sign. Thank you organizers! Let us not stop until guns are controlled.

 

Oakland

Ward Kanowsky: On March 24, 2018, over 840 cities around the world participated in the March For Our Lives. With gun violence impacting the Oakland community, it was important for the city to be a host of one of these events. I was one of several members of IEB who staffed a booth during the rally, which included student speakers from local high schools, poetry readings, youth from the Martin Luther King Freedom Center and Bay Area Students for Gun Violence Prevention, and alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, among many others. Following the two-hour rally, there was a brief but rousing march to Lake Merritt, led by four of the student organizers of the event.

You can continue to support the inspiring work of our young people by signing the March For Our Lives petition, which calls for Congress to pass legislation that will protect and save our children from gun violence.

Ann Daniels: I was helping to staff the IEB table in back of the crowd, so I didn’t hear the speakers very well, but I got to interact with a steady stream of people of all ages and races. Some were long-time activists but many were new to activism,or hadn’t been active politically for several years – this cause, this moment, was the “last straw,” as one woman told me. They wanted information about how to be active on more than this one issue, which was wonderful. I also loved seeing how many people felt positive, full of admiration for the young people from Parkland and all over the country who have stood up and become leaders.

March for Our Lives, Oakland, photo by Deirdre Spencer
March for Our Lives, Oakland, photo by Deirdre Spencer

San Francisco

Helen Clifton, Poinsett Indivisible: The San Francisco March for Our Lives was inspiring, rousing, energizing. People of all ages attended, listening to and cheering on this youth movement. Unlike the Washington, D.C. March, there were adult speakers as well as MANY amazing articulate youngsters from around the Bay Area: we heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Jennifer Seibel Newsom, London Breed, current SF Mayor Farrell, Grace Slick, and Pastor Michael McBride and Leo Mercer, who work with communities and organizations in Oakland. There was also a woman who survived Columbine, two alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the father of a student who was killed at the UC Santa Barbara massacre, who works with Everytown for Gun Safety. Dr. Gregory Victorino, M.D., chief of the Trauma Center at San Francisco General Hospital, spoke about the huge gun violence issue in American public health. A leading trauma surgeon, Victorino was involved in treating victims at the Columbine and Aurora Theatre shootings.  

Many speakers addressed the prevalence of gun violence generally in America, as only 4% of gun deaths are from mass shootings. They also pointed to the horror of so many deaths caused by police shooting Black people, most recently Stephon Clark in Sacramento, unarmed, on an iPhone, in his grandmother’s backyard, leaving two little boys without their loving father. They also spoke of women being killed by domestic partners, and Jennifer Seibel Newsom brought up Toxic Masculinity! One teenage girl, a senior in high school, talked about PTSD from when she was 13, walking fourth-grade sisters home from school, and being surrounded by gunfire in their neighborhood, only steps from home, dropping to the ground until bullets stopped. She has grown up with the constant fear of gun violence in the streets. 

Everyone around me was very moved, stood and listened throughout the unusually long rally, then marched forever down Market Street to the Ferry Building. 

March for Our Lives, San Francisco, photo by Helen Clifton
March for Our Lives, San Francisco, photo by Helen Clifton

Did you march? There’s more you can do! Help keep the momentum these young people have built going — contact your Members of Congress to ask them to hold a Town Hall for Our Lives in solidarity with those across the country on Saturday April 7.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

A Sensitive Subject: Gun Rights from One Perspective

Editor’s note: After the March 24, 2018 March for Our Lives, a member of IEB leadership interviewed an IEB member who is a gun owner and who attended one of the East Bay Marches. What follows is an edited selection of their wide-ranging conversation on guns, gun control legislation, gun ownership, and related subjects. The IEB member has chosen to remain anonymous.

IEB: Why did you want to go to the March for Our Lives? And why did you bring your young son?

Answer: I went to the march (1) to support my fellow IEB members (2) to show young folks that they can lead adults on this issue (3) it was easier just to bring my son due to childcare issues and (4) it’s good for him to see the excitement of older kids on an important issue.

IEB: That doesn’t sound like you felt a particular connection with the subject of the march.

Answer: Not a big connection. I’ve saved my excitement on other issues that Indivisible supports. But being present and showing support was important.

IEB: You’re a gun owner and you’ve told me you support some gun control legislation – do you feel like other gun control supporters do, or could, see you as an ally? Do you think the leaders of the anti-gun violence movement are taking good tactical positions?

Answer: I’m an ally depending on how far they want to go. For example, CA just made it illegal to buy ammunition in the mail. That made me angry. Limiting magazines to 10 rounds is fine. An assault weapons ban is fine. Making it difficult and expensive for lawful gun owners to buy ammo for their legally obtained firearms is not good.

IEB: Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called for repealing the Second Amendment. What do you think?

Answer: A Constitutional amendment needs two-thirds of both Houses of Congress calling for it, then convening a Constitutional Convention where three-quarters of state legislatures must agree. That’s not going to happen.

IEB: Will you teach your son about guns when he gets to be old enough?

Answer: Only after he’s 18 and if he asks about it. I will teach him about gun safety in a few months, like knowing what to do when you see one: Back away. Don’t touch. Go get an adult right away-preferably, their parent. I’m already teaching him the basics of marksmanship through archery. It’s mostly the same muscle memory.

IEB: Do you ask his friends’ parents if they have guns in the home before you let him go play there? And if you do, how do you ask?

Answer: I actually have several dinners and outings with them. I check them out. I mention my background with the military and weapons. If they don’t offer up, I take it that they don’t have weapons, especially if they have kids and have opportunities to speak up. I’ve told my nearest neighbors that I have a pistol and it’s locked up. We have a lot of play dates with those boys.

IEB: Wow, that’s a lot of work. Has anyone ever said they don’t want their kids coming over to your place after finding out you have weapons, locked up?

Answer: Nope.

IEB: You used to be in the armed services. What kind of gun(s) did you use then, and what kind do you own now? And what do you use them for?

Answer: Let’s talk about my Sig Sauer P229K .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol. I purchased it in 2007 to get extra practice for the US Coast Guard’s pistol range. I was leading maritime law enforcement specialists who were weapons experts. I had to be good with the Sig Sauer to credibly lead them. I’ve fired that weapon tens of thousands of times since then. I’m proficient. I use it only for marksmanship practice. The .40 caliber is the diameter of the bullet. It’s .40” wide. It’s an English measurement as compared to a 9 mm round that is more common. That’s 9 mm in diameter. A gun is a machine. No use keeping it unless you have all the parts to make it function properly. And the training—but that can be subjective. I have my training from the military and that’s my foundation that hasn’t changed that much.

IEB: What kinds of semiautomatic weapons can be converted to fully automatic, and what can’t? Or put another way: why can some weapons be converted and others not, or can any semiautomatic weapon be converted to fully automatic given the right equipment?

Answer: I believe it’s the AR-15 type you can easily convert to auto. Go to the internet and google. Anyone can do it. I could if I wanted to. You can ban things but you can’t ban knowledge.

IEB: You can certainly convert those. I believe you can convert others too. One problem, I know, is that if you ban bump stocks, someone will create a different device … something else you can’t ban is ingenuity.

Answer: You know what the rate of fire could be for full auto? In the hundreds of rounds per minute. Magazine size will take care of that. Keep with 10 round magazines. … magazine change has to happen. So 10 round magazine will take care of that.

IEB: There’s no way that a would-be mass shooter can carry it out with that change?

Answer: No, it would be a lot of magazines. It takes a microsecond to go through a 10 round magazine. Then it takes a second to reload. A microsecond later you have to reload another 10 round magazine which takes another second.

IEB: What do you think of the idea of arming teachers?

Answer: No. It’s a dog whistle for the extremists. Without enough training (100 hours a year at least) anyone with a weapon is a danger to themselves and others. I won’t even go into the dynamics of teachers having guns while other things are going on in a classroom. And they don’t get paid enough—we need to pay our teachers more. Then we can ask them to do more—but not guns.

 

March For Our Lives & Other Events Against Gun Violence

There are numerous events against gun violence on different dates in different locations. We will add to and edit this list as we learn of new events and/or updates.

March 14: School Walkouts:

Schools and students nationwide will participate in a 17-minute walkout on March 14 at 10 AM (local time), to honor the 17 people killed on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and to protest gun violence. KRON-4 News has put together this comprehensive list of all the participating schools in the entire Bay Area. Some school districts, including Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont, have issued district-wide policies stating that they will be working with students on various events and activities for that day. Note: IEB is not encouraging students to do anything that could endanger their academic careers, and we don’t know whether specific schools will mark students absent, etc., or whether parental notification will affect the school’s handling of individual cases.

March 24: March For Our Lives

Student organizers and Everytown for Gun Safety are organizing March for Our Lives events on March 24 in locations around the country and around the world, aided by celebrity support and donations. This is the weekend event that families can go to together and kids and teens can attend without missing school. Bay Area locations include:

  • Oakland: 10 AM-1 PM, Frank Ogawa Plaza. Register here. The March is looking for volunteers; email OaklandMarch@gmail.com.
  • Richmond: 11 AM, Downtown Richmond, 1300 Nevin Ave
  • San Leandro: 9-11:30 AM. Gather at Washington Elementary, San Leandro at 9 AM to make signs; march begins at 9:45 AM; rally begins at 10:15 AM with speakers and activities (postcard making, letter writing, and refreshments). This event is suitable for families with young children.
  • Walnut Creek: 11 AM, location downtown Walnut Creek TBD
  • San Francisco: 1 PM, Civic Center Plaza. Interested in volunteering? Reach out here.
  • Search for an event near you here.

April 20: The Anniversary of Columbine

The two students who massacred their fellow students and several teachers at their high school in Columbine, Colorado on April 20, 1999 used explosives and other weapons of mass destruction as well as guns, but Columbine is generally recognized as the mass school shooting that began the modern plague that our nation has suffered from unremittingly in the nearly two decades since. In those days before live internet news, people watched and listened in horror as radio and TV reported what was previously unimaginable. Now, a student who lives near Sandy Hook, site of another previously unimaginable school shooting, has originated a call to mark the date: Friday, April 20 will see school walkouts throughout the country. We’ll list Bay Area events as we learn of them.

Graphic: #MarchForOurLives

Calling BS On Thoughts and Prayers

There aren’t words for what happened in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day. The trauma inflicted on the students and their families is so unimaginably vast that it may alter the course of American history.

Parkland’s students are forging their heartbreak and anger into action. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, stood in front of the world’s news cameras and spoke her truth to the nominal leader of the free world just days after February 14:

If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy, and how it should never have happened, and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. But hey, you want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know: $30 million. … To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!

Gonzalez and her classmates are calling BS on the fiction that tighter regulation doesn’t save lives. It does. Fewer guns means fewer deaths, every time.

They demand that we take action, and we owe it to them and to ourselves to do so. Here’s where you come in. You can:

Support legislation requiring reasonable regulation of firearms:

Let Your MoC Know How You Feel About Their Track Record:

 

  • Outside the East Bay:
    • Explore this NPR chart to see how your Members of Congress have voted on gun bills.
    • Find out whether your representatives are funded by the NRA.
    • If your MoCs support gun safety, thank them! You can be sure the NRA is getting their members to give them grief, and they need to hear from you.
    • If your MoCs oppose reasonable regulation of firearms or are being bought by the NRA, tell them they’re not representing your wishes; tell them you won’t vote for them and will work against them. This fundraising piece from Gabby Giffords has graphics you can print and make into a postcard or tape to a piece of paper. You can use Giffords’ tweets for inspiration for your message too.

Hit the Streets and Support the Students:

Support and Donate to a Gun Safety Organization:

 

CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Photograph of Emma Gonzalez copyright CNN