Students and adults from across Long Island gathered Saturday in Port Jefferson to call for an end to gun violence.
Dozens of people, many of them holding homemade signs and wearing orange shirts as a tribute to Americans affected by gun violence, lined up along the Port Jefferson Train Car on Route 347 and Route 112 to protest the current gun laws in place and call for tougher safety measures to be enacted.
Students Act for Change, a Long Island-based student-led organization that addresses gun violence and promotes activism, organized the rally and spread word of it through an online campaign involving email and social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook, said Casey Hozven, 17, of East Setauket, one of the student group’s members and a rally organizer.
Speakers at the rally — all students — had harsh words for both the National Rifle Association, which advocates for gun rights, and politicians who do not support stronger gun laws.
“I have yet to graduate high school, go to college, get married or have a family. But I may never do this because the NRA has put a price on my life,” said Jess Finn, 15, a Patchogue-Medford High School sophomore from Farmingville. “Money is valued higher than our lives. Thinking about that statement makes me disgusted that something so inhumane is a reality. But it is a reality I and many others have to live with.”
The NRA did not immediately comment Saturday.
With Friday kicking off Gun Violence Awareness Month and a similar rally — the Youth Over Guns March — taking place in Brooklyn, organizers said they wanted to hold a rally of their own on Long Island for local students who could not make the commute.
“The local level is where change starts,” said Julia Divan, 16, a Riverhead High School junior who previously participated in a walkout protest organized at her school. In her rally speech, Divan said she was scared for her friends and other young people who could be threatened by school shootings.
“I’m scared for the kids who are younger than I am, the ones who don’t remember when school shootings weren’t a regular thing,” Divan said. “Something happens when you’re constantly exposed to those news stories. The victims stop being human beings and they become just numbers.”
Student representatives of the group from school districts around Long Island — including the Riverhead, Rocky Point, Ward-Melville, and Patchogue-Medford school districts — were at the rally, organizers said.
Sue and Jerry Shor, a married couple from Long Island, said they were also concerned about gun violence as both parents and grandparents.
“Our concern is for the safety of the generation after us,” said Jerry Shor, 76. “It’s quite frankly insane to open up your children to that risk.”