Citizens stage local March for Our Lives

DOWNTOWN MARCH - About 200 people gathered in Gettysburg's Lincoln Square on Saturday to rally against gun violence. (Michael Cooper-White/Gettysburg Times)

While busloads of local residents headed to Washington, D.C. early Saturday to join some 800,000 fellow citizens in the nation's capital March for Our Lives, dozens of area people staged their own noontime anti-gun demonstration at Gettysburg's Lincoln Square.

At least 200 people marched around the town's circle decrying the ongoing mass shootings and demanding stricter measures to protect school children and all Americans threatened by gun violence.

Carrying home-made signs declaring, "Enough," "No More Guns," "I Am Not a Target," and a host of other slogans, the peaceful demonstrators declared their insistence on immediate changes to make America safe again for school children and all citizens.

Many motorists passing through the square on the busy springtime Saturday honked their horns and gave thumbs-up signs to the demonstrators, who responded with enthusiastic cheers.

Among those gathered to call upon the nations' leaders for added gun control measures was local resident Laura Geesaman, who was accompanied by her daughter Julia and a family friend Divya Makkenchery. When asked why she had come to the town square on Saturday, the latter teenager said simply, "We care about making a difference. We're tired of all the violence that's happening."

For her part, the younger Geesaman, Julia, stated, "we're tired of being afraid." Acknowledging that many people might question the impact of a few dozen gathered in a small town like Gettysburg, she expressed her confidence that "every small effort can make a difference."

Gettysburg residents Fred and Channah Raleigh were joined on the square by their children Sierra and Kyler. When asked why she was present, Sierra responded immediately, "We don't want guns in our schools!"

Fred Raleigh, a former United States Marine who owns a hunting rifle, expressed his conviction that there is simply no reason for average citizens to have access to the kind of high-powered weapons he bore in the military.

"I have seen the incredible damage such weapons inflict," he said, going on to express his conviction that more stringent background checks and other measures must be enacted to stem mass shootings by those who are mentally disturbed or otherwise motivated to wreak havoc.

A project manager for an international corporation, Channah Raleigh teared up as she spoke of colleagues who reside in Florida and were personally affected by the recent Parkland school massacre.

The crowd on Saturday reflected the community's diverse constituencies, including students and staff from public and private elementary and secondary schools, joined by older enrollees at Gettysburg College and United Lutheran Seminary.

Also present in large numbers were senior citizens and area retirees. Some reminisced about their participation in civil rights and anti-Vietnam protests in the 1960s. Orrtanna resident Lolly Polvinale recalled jumping into the reflecting pool in Washington during one protest march in the 60s.

Retired Gettysburg College music professor Norman Nunamaker declared his conviction that, "there is simply no reason for weapons of war to be in the hands of ordinary citizens." While acknowledging that the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment grants certain rights, Nunamaker voiced his conviction that it does not guarantee all citizens access to all types of weapons.

Nunamaker and retired Methodist minister Rev. Lynn Cairns expressed their admiration for the anti-gun violence leadership of young people.

"We're proud of our young people. There are encouraging signs of hope. The trend seems to be shifting. Just as cigarettes were once regarded as 'cool' and now are avoided by most youngsters, so guns are no longer seen as good things," they concurred.

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