COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Thousands of people packed West Bank Park on Saturday, demanding changes to gun laws and school safety as part of the March for Our Lives event.
The rally in Columbus was among the hundreds of March for Our Lives sister events happening across the nation Saturday as the National March took place in Washington, D.C.
The March for Our Lives movement is organized and led by students demanding gun reform in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead.
In Columbus, demonstrators gathered at West Bank Park before 11 a.m. for a rally. Many of those attending were children or teenagers.
Jacqueline Lampert, the mother of 4- and 6-year-old children, said her family has been involved in gun violence prevention for a number of years. Lampert said she believes guns are not only a problem inside schools, but other places as well.
“The daycare preschool that my kids go to takes care of kids from 6 weeks to 6 years,” she explained, “So my kids have been doing lockdown drills and reverse evacuations since they could walk and we shouldn’t have to live like that. Our kids should be safe when they go to school, they should be safe when they play outside.”
Her 6-year-old son Kellen was with her.
“I want to feel safe when I go to school,” Kellen said. “I think the gun violence should stop.”
“I want my kids to be active, I want them to have opinions and work to make their world a better place just like we as their parents are trying to do that,” Lampert said. “We just want to make a better future for our kids and safe from guns.”
One of the people speaking at the rally was Drew Gittins. In 2012, he survived a shooting at Chardon High School.
“I was 100 percent sure that was the day I was going to die,” Gittins said.
Gittins, who is now a student at Capital University, said demonstrators are marching “to say that we are tired of students being gunned down in high schools. We’re tired of feeling scared when they come to our schools in the mornings.”
Also at the event was Cathy Clark, whose husband, a police officer, was murdered in 1998 in Cleveland. Clark said her husband’s killer was a convicted felon, who bought the gun from another felon who purchased it at a gun show.
“I cannot even begin to describe accurately what it is like to look at your loved one on a gurney with bullets throughout his body,” Clark said.
Gwen Moran, a student at Centennial High School and student organizer with the group Sandy Hook Promise, urged both her peers and adults to take initiative when it comes to school safety and changing laws.
“Those of you who can vote, who are of age, especially seniors in high school, need to take action and register to vote,” Moran said.
Senator Sherrod Brown and other lawmakers also attended the rally. Brown said he had never seen anything like this event, as far as the number of young people attending. Congress, he said, has work to do.
“That means universal background checks,” Brown said. “If you’re on the terrorist watch list, you can’t get on a plane at John Glenn Airport, but you can get a gun. We should close that loophole.”
Later, protesters marched from West Bank Park to the Ohio Statehouse, chanting, “Enough is enough” and “Silence is violence.”
At the Statehouse, Representative Joyce Beatty used a megaphone to speak to protesters.
“Our children demand a safe future,” Beatty said. “Guns are not school supplies.”