This post was written by Hatchet reporter Tiana Pigford.
At least 1,000 people from across the country marched down Constitution Avenue Saturday, led by about 100 Newtown, Conn.-area residents, to advocate for stricter gun control legislation.
Blocking off streets, the group walked in silence and held signs reading the names of gun violence victims.
“I don’t want to take away anyone’s rights to protect themselves,” said Newtown resident Sandy Goldsberry, whose daughter was in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, when a shooter killed 26 students and staff members. “But I don’t think anyone needs semiautomatic weapons.”
After the 12-block trek, demonstrators gathered on the National Mall to hear from activists, victims, performers and elected officials. Each time a speaker called for an assault weapons ban or universal background checks, there was a thunder of applause, as Newtown residents – positioned in front of the stage – standing to their feet.
When Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to the podium, he said he spoke as a father and as someone who grew up knowing victims of gun violence in Chicago. He recalled later leading the city’s public schools, and remembering the students in his district who died each year from gunshot wounds.
“I used to have a drawing on my desk from a child,” Duncan said. “It said, ‘If I grow up, I want to be a fireman.’ ‘If I grow up.’ Far too many children are growing up in an environment where they are scared. Our country deserves better than that.”
The march had been put together in less than a month, led by D.C. activists and a grassroots organization called One Million Moms for Gun Control. Molly Smith, the artistic director of D.C.’s Arena Stage, launched the event through a Facebook page.
Participants also heard from Collin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“The only answer is a national, federal solution and let’s work hard to make that happen,” Gray, an alumnus, said. He pointed out that while D.C.’s gun laws are among the nation’s tightest, weapons can enter the city’s borders from states with less stringent regulation.
A handful of anti-gun control activists, representing the Libertarian Party of Virginia, lined the participants’ route.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.