The sward in front of the windmill couldn’t contain the crowd. It spilled across the entry and access roads to the Long Wharf pier, dozens deep, as demonstrators came out Saturday morning to participate in the Sag Harbor “March for our Lives.” The march, a sister event in a nationwide network of protests mirroring the demonstration in Washington, DC, drew double if not triple the number of protestors seen in the Sag Harbor Women’s March this winter.
East Hampton High School student Gianna Gregorio was among the speakers. “Thoughts and prayers won’t prevent a tragedy, so we protest,” she said. “A teacher’s job is to protect children from ignorance, not bullets.”
Seventeen years old, the young woman said kids her age should not have to choose their college, where they’ll go to complete their education, based on how easy it is to buy guns at the Wal-Mart near campus.
“We will not fight with bullets. We will fight with our words and our dignity,” she proclaimed, urging protestors, “Hold your heads high and your signs higher.” Jackie Hilly, a Sag Harbor resident and former executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, addressed the crowd next. Like a slew of signs held by marchers, her comments referenced Congressman Lee Zeldin. A chorus of boos rose up from throng as she declared, “Our member of Congress is wholly owned by the NRA.”
“It’s our job to vote him out of office,” Hilly continued. “The most important thing you can do is register to vote and vote in November and vote Lee Zeldin out of office.”
“Sag Harbor is not protected. Tell Lee Zeldin,” march organizer Sinead Murray urged. Noting a voter registration table nearby, she exhorted the crowd to “vote those who want to keep us safe into office and those who don’t out.”
Once the crowd began to move, in a procession that filled the Main Street sidewalks, five and six people deep stretching from the windmill to the war memorial, some demonstrators chanted, their voices demanding gun control.
Signs carried by protestors were numerous and diverse. Simple statements included “Protect Kids, Not Guns,” the universal hashtag #Enough is Enough, and “Moms Demand Action.”
One sign showed the traditional GOP elephant, its trunk drawn as the barrel of a gun, its message “No More Republiguns.”
“Mental Illness is Global, Gun Violence is American, “ another placard read as a teen carried a big poster marked with, “When I said I’d rather die than go to geometry, that was hyperbole, a@#%^e.”
Parents brought children to the protests, babies in strollers. One tot held a sign that said, “We need change and I’m not talking my diaper.”
Spirits were high. There was a convivial air throughout the throng belying the tragedy that spurred it and the DC march organized by the students survivors of the February 14 mass murders at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students from Parkland have kept the conversation going, overcoming sadness and shock with action.
Still, for some, sadness was an emotion erupting on sunny Sag Harbor Main Street. “One child, brought tears to my eyes,” Betty Mazur of Amagansett, a former schoolteacher, acknowledged. The child didn’t carry a sign, just wore a bulls eye target on her back.
For many, a poster carried by one marcher may have summarized sentiment. It said, “My outrage can’t fit on this sign.” One mom wasn’t surprised by the extraordinary turnout, offering simply, “It’s our babies they’re f@#$%^g with!”
Hundreds of thousands of protestors filled the streets in Washington, DC, New York City and cities across American Saturday, pleading for and demanding an end to gun violence.