Castlegarians showed their support for students in the U.S. speaking out against gun violence with a march down Columbia Avenue on Wednesday.
About 20 people of all ages came out armed with signs bearing the hashtag #EnoughIsEnough and calling for an end to violence in schools and for better gun control. They marched from the Pioneer Arena to City Hall, receiving honks of support along the way.
Once the group reached City Hall, it was joined by approximately another 10 people.
After Deb McIntosh, city councillor and organizer of the event had welcomed everyone, they heard from guest speakers.
The first was Marilyn Pearson, who referred to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida and the movement resulting from it as a drop of water that has created a ripple in a puddle.
“We know the puddle has changed forever. Our world, the greater world, will no longer stand idly by and watch as fellow humans are killed needlessly — because of a moment of feeling lost, because of a time of feeling hopeless, in a moment of rage or anger,” she said.
Pearson called on U.S. politicians to ban the sale of assault guns and thanked Canadian politicians for our country’s gun controls.
“Owning guns is a privilege, not a right,” she said. “However, this is not enough, Canada. It is time to lead the way in ending homelessness. It is time to be leaders in improving our mental health system and supporting its workers. These two changes will improve our economic base and the health of all Canadians.”
Revered Greg Powell from the Castlegar United Church also addressed the crowd.
“Where is God in this?” he asked. “Many people feel hopeless, many people feel alone. I happen to follow a tradition where someone was executed for his non-violent protests. We tell a story that he came back to life later. Maybe that’s what’s happening in Florida. There is life after the death, after the execution. After the senseless execution, there is new life and that’s the hope we have to take with us as we go.”
Mickey Kinakin, School District 20 board trustee, spoke as well.
“I guess I’m here because I’m a school trustee and where ever students are deciding to take political action I think it’s my duty to be there,” he said.
J.J. Verigin, president of the Kootenay Region United Nations Association (KRUNA), called on those assembled to bridge the distance between their heads and their hearts.
“And let’s make our communities places we can be proud to live in, as many of you are already doing here,” he said.
McIntosh gave a shout out to Mason Tremblay, the only teenager to attend the Castlegar event.
“He comes out to every vigil we have, every rally. He sleeps outside for the homeless. He rallies, he raises money and he’s 100 per cent part of his community,” she said. “And I think we need more youngsters like Mason because he’s strong.”
McIntosh also mentioned that she recently learned that students in School District 20 practice lockdown drills.
“That broke my heart,” she said.
Kinakin confirmed that yes, there are lockdown drills because it’s good to be prepared. He doesn’t expect anything to happen and he doesn’t want parents to worry, but it’s in the children’s best interest to be prepared in case something happens.
“When you have to plan your class to lock down because there’s a violent offender in your school and kids have to turn out the light switches and one has to lock the door and one has to pull the blinds, that’s not my Canada folks,” said McIntosh. “No bloody way is that my Canada, and I will rally, march, dance, sing a song, whatever I have to do to make sure that will never be our Canada.”