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More than 100 Harvard affiliates, Boston-area residents, and gun control advocates gathered at the steps of Widener Library Tuesday evening to rally for stricter gun legislation.
The demonstration, which was organized by national gun control advocacy group March for Our Lives, followed the fatal shooting of six children and adults at a Nashville school last week.
Speaking through bullhorns, several speakers addressed the crowd to share personal experiences with gun violence, vent frustrations, and issue calls to action.
Yael Cushman, a master’s student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and former first-grade teacher, cited the frequent lockdown drills in her school in her call for stricter gun control legislation.
“It’s surreal to be sitting through these drills and normalizing something that should never be normalized,” Cushman said. “Schools should be safe spaces where children can learn, play, make mistakes, build friendships — not fear for their lives.”
“I’m angry that teachers have to imagine how they would sacrifice their lives in order to protect their students,” she added.
Cornell William Brooks, a Harvard Kennedy School professor and former president and CEO of the NAACP, spoke about the pervasiveness of gun violence in his address.
“Gun violence affects us whether you walk on the streets, whether you’re in a school, whether you’re in a college campus,” Brooks said. “We’re all collectively victims, witnesses to gun violence.”
March for Our Lives co-founder David M. Hogg ’23 called rally attendees to civic action during his speech.
“We’ve gone through a long, hard cold winter here in Boston, but I’m here to tell you today that spring is here,” Hogg said.
“We must demand action from our elected leaders, for we dictate their future because we are their bosses,” he added.
In his remarks, Hogg also alluded to a “swatting” attack in Leverett House early Monday morning, during which multiple students were ordered out of their suite at gunpoint by Harvard University Police Department officers responding to a false 911 call.
“These halls were all once places where leaders were cultivated — and they still are. But now in these same halls, right down the street at Leverett, they’re being invaded by armed guards, who just yesterday held our classmates at gunpoint,” Hogg said. “That violence has no place here, and we must do more.”
HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hogg’s characterization of the department’s response.
HKS student Rachel A. Jacoby, who helped to organize the rally, said in an interview that she was inspired to get involved in the gun control movement after a string of mass shootings last year, including a shooting that killed seven people at a Fourth of July parade in her hometown of Highland Park, Illinois.
“That really amplified my organizing,” Jacoby said of the shooting.
Ivy A.W. Ryan, another rally organizer and HGSE student, said she and Cushman planned Tuesday’s rally due to a desire to take action in the wake of the Nashville shooting.
“It initially just started as two graduate students at Harvard Graduate School of Education wanting to do something and feeling kind of helpless — and then it grew,” Ryan said.
Ryan said she was pleased with the rally’s turnout, which drew students from several local schools.
“It’s amazing how quickly people can come together when they care about a common cause,” Ryan said.
Jacoby said she believes in the power of collective organizing to drive reform.
“This movement needs all of us, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been organizing against gun violence for five years, five months, or five minutes,” Jacoby said. “We need all of us and all of our collective power to come together to organize our friends, our fellow classmates or neighbors, our families, in the fight against gun violence.”
“It’s our responsibility to use our voices to fight for gun safety laws and to fight for a future free from gun violence,” she added.
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