MEDFORD, Ore.– Outrage and frustration. Unity and solidarity. In what was an international movement with marches held from Los Angeles to London to Sydney, organizers from high schools across the valley brought a local touch to Saturday’s March for Our Lives.
From downtown Medford out to the stadium at Central Medford High School, hundreds showed up from across the valley to support not only the youth but the spirit and momentum that was started by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Brian Josephson, one of the lead organizers of the Medford march and a senior at South Medford High School, says he was blown away by the number of people that showed up and the energy that has carried this movement.
“I think now is different because the students at the school where it happened stood up and said, ‘It’s time to say enough to this,'” he said. “And that gave students, myself included, across the country the courage to stand up with them.”
As people gathered in front of the old Jackson County Courthouse, signs in-hand and chants rousing participants, one message was clear. Stricter gun laws need to be enforced.
“I don’t think I should be scared to go to school and I don’t think I should be afraid and have to stay home because of shooting threats,” said Audrey Hanna, a student from San Diego who stopped to join the march during her spring break. “I think my right to an education sort of overpowers the right to own a gun, especially an assault rifle.”
Students, teachers, young and old arrived to show their support of the youth who organized this event. Each person held a story of what motivated them to stand up.
“I personally have family,” said Miranda Taylor-Cheeks, a volunteer and senior at Phoenix High School. “I have three younger sisters that I adore and every single day if something like that happens or if there is a drill out of nowhere, my first thought goes to them.”
“My little nine-year-old granddaughter… I don’t want her to be afraid to go to school. It’s horrible,” said Cheryl Cayting, a participant, as she held back tears.
While many showed up to support the march, others came to voice their opinions and their concerns about the movement.
“I agree with March for Our Lives, the fact that our lives are inherent to our rights,” said Jared Foy, a counter-protester. “I do not believe in the way that March for Our Lives is pushing gun control.”
Foy, a gun proponent, showed up to the rally with a few others, waving signs and carrying his own AR-15 strapped to his front. While there were only a handful, marchers and counter protesters seemed divisive at times while at others, conversation and dialogue was started between sides.
“Gun reform is useless. It’s absolutely useless,” said Foy. “Only law abiding citizens obey gun laws and the murderer – he’s going to have whatever he wants at his disposal.”
While there were disagreements, the overall march showed a movement pushing for change across the country.
Blake Beck, a senior at Crater High School, gave one of the speeches at the rally held at Central Medford High. There he spoke of the need to have more common sense gun policies in place. But he also spoke about assisting mental health institutions and providing the funding necessary to help those in need.
From this march, Beck is excited to see what changes may come.
“I want the right to go to school and feel safe,” he said. “But every citizen should have the right to go walk in public and not be afraid to be shot in a concert in Vegas or go and have fun on a weekend and not be shot down in front of the rest of your friends. Nobody should have to go through that, especially in a first world country like the United States.”