'Enough is enough': Hundreds gather to protest for Mount Pleasant's March For Our Lives event
About 720 people holding signs and shouting chants crowded Island Park on March 24 during Mount Pleasant’s March For Our Lives event.
March For Our Lives is a nationwide movement dedicated to ending school shootings and gun violence.
While the victims of the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida planned to march in Washington D.C. on March 24, Central Michigan University students planned their own march in downtown Mount Pleasant to support the movement.
Beginning in Island Park, the march’s route went past Mount Pleasant’s post office, down Main Street and through the downtown area, ending at City Hall. Leading the massive crowd were some of the student organizers holding a long March For Our Lives banner.
Student organizer and Roseville sophomore Sam Zeeryp was at the front of the protest with a megaphone, leading the hundreds of people in passionate chants, such as “Not one more,” “NRA stop it, people over profit,” and, the most popular, “We call BS!”
Hundreds of handmade signs were waving in the air as the protesters yelled and marched their way through the streets. One man, who had his young son sitting on his shoulders, held a large sign that simply said “Protect kids, not guns,” while another protester waved a vividly painted sign that read “NRA there’s blood on your hands.”
Volunteers for Mom’s Demand Action, a national organization that fights for gun reform and to keep guns out of schools, set up a table on the outside of the crowd with sign-up sheets for the organization. Mount Pleasant Area’s League of Women Voters also set up a table at the park, to get protesters registered to vote.
Every person who attended the protest had their own reasons for being there, like Pinconning resident Celia Young-Wenkel, who has two nieces that are students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Although they weren't harmed during shooting, she said they both “lost friends and still suffer emotionally everyday.”
Other attendees, like Ann Arbor freshman Eli Karoly, went to the protest to "be apart of history" in the nation-wide movement.
“It’s your civil duty to make your voice heard,” Karoly said. “I want to see change and I would’ve felt bad if I wasn’t here.”
Mount Pleasant’s march was organized by nine CMU students. Jenison junior Morgan Robinson is one of the students, who began planning the march shortly after the Parkland shooting occurred. She said they couldn’t have organized the march without their professor, Mari Degaz, who gave them time in class to work on it.
“This is all happening because we have a professor who was willing to let us take our class time to work on it and talk about it,” she said as she looked at the hundreds of people filling the park.
Before the march began, Sarah Spencer-Noggle, a Mount Pleasant resident running for probate judge, stood on a picnic table with a megaphone. She told the crowd about her experience during the shooting on CMU’s campus March 2, and how she spent the entire day in fear for her husband, who is a professor and was on lockdown nearly the entire day. She urged everyone to keep pushing the demand for “common-sense gun laws” so no one would have to feel that fear again.
“We’re here for the safety of our children and families and there’s nothing more important than that,” Spencer-Noggle said. “Legislators in Lansing and Washington D.C. have dropped the ball, and the students have picked it up. We’re here to support them.”
Mount Pleasant Mayor Allison Quast-Lents, who had her newborn daughter strapped to her chest, also stood up with a megaphone to tell the crowd “enough is enough.”
“We’re here because the youth of today decided they are done waiting for change,” she said. “We’re present today because we know we are stronger together. We’re marching because enough is enough.”
People of all ages were marching, such as Vowels Elementary third-grader Charlotte Ford. She was holding a sign she made herself, which featured a picture of a gun with an “X” through it and read “Keep schools safe, no guns in school.” When asked why she was at the march, Ford said she wanted “to keep bad people with guns out of schools so they can’t kill kids anymore.”
Another young protester was 13-year-old Kimberly Douglas, who is a student at Jefferson Middle School in Midland and is very passionate about the movement.
“So many people have lost their lives and we need to put an end to it,” she said. “Because I could be next or my friends and family could be next. We can’t let this happen anymore.”
At the end of the march, protesters gathered in the courtyard of Mount Pleasant’s City Hall, where different speakers stood on a small stage and addressed the crowd. Speakers included:
· Kali Fox, a representative for U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
· Mitchell K. Hall, history faculty member
· Allan Riggs, a representative for Moms Demand Action,
· Lara Raisiaen, a representative for League of Women Voters
· Father Wayne Nicholson of St. Johns Episcopal Church
· Morgan Robinson, Dashay Withers, Brandon Darsow, Sam Zeeryp, student organizers
Several of the speakers, such as Kali Fox, encouraged the crowd to keep the movement going by voting for laws that will fight gun violence. The crowd of protesters engaged with Fox, chanting “common sense,” as she listed the gun reform laws Stabenow wants to see enforced.
Zeeryp, a student organizer, reminded everyone that gun control is a “very complex issue with many different aspects affecting it." He talked to the crowd about his personal reason for fighting for gun reform -- losing his father, who was diagnosed with a mental illness, to suicide when he shot himself with his gun.
“There was no reason for him to be in possession of any type of weapon,” Zeeryp said. “And because he was, he’s not here to see that I got accepted into CMU. My father’s not here to see me speaking in front of all these people and being a student activist.”
Zeeryp said he’s fighting not just to keep guns out of schools, but out of the hands of those with mental illnesses who could be a danger to themselves or others.
St. Johns Episcopal Church’s Father Wayne Nicholson spoke to the crowd about the power of the youth to create change and the importance of speaking up about gun violence.
“To my young brothers and sisters, this is your time, because adults have failed you in their complacency” he said. “And those of us who have not spoken up have failed you. We too, are complicit, but we must not be silent any longer. Enough is enough.”