More than 200 people of all ages showed up for the March For Our Lives rally at Oconee Veterans Park today, which ended with the plea from two North Oconee County High School students for action.
“Those who do not support common sense gun legislation are putting their wants for guns above other people’s rights for life and safety,” Piper Cyterski, the first of the North Oconee County High School students to speak, told the group.
The event was sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic Committee and billed as nonpartisan. It was designed to coincide with other March For Our Lives events around the country.
Opening speakers were John Daniell, chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and Amy Parrish, a member of the Oconee County Board of Education. Both are Republicans.
“Regardless of your views on guns, regardless of your views on God,” Daniell said in opening the session, “Let’s focus on teaching that life is precious and let’s start defining success based on relationships.”
Learning From Daughter
Board of Education member Parrish reviewed the steps that the Oconee County School System had taken to make sure the county’s schools are safe, working with local law enforcement.
“I believe our school climate is very positive, but our students are speaking up and walking out and telling us it is time to do more,” Parrish said. “And for that I’m very grateful. It has been a great real-life example of how civics works.
“And I am thankful that my own ninth grader had a chance to participate in that along with her friends,” Parrish said.
“We may not have all of the answers, but we need to demonstrate to them that we are willing to work together like we are today to figure it out and that we won’t give up.
“I don’t believe in living in fear,” Parrish said, “but I believe fear lets us find our courage. We will be courageous, and we will find solutions to end school violence.”
Cyterski On Walkout
“There is no excuse for not enacting common-sense gun legislation–no assault weapons or high capacity magazines and stricter background checks,” Cyterski said.
“Civilians do not need access to weapons that carry so much potential for death,” she added.
Cyterski said that a silent walkout was held at North Oconee High School.
“I had friends that didn’t want to attend because they felt that gathering in a big open space would be a prime opportunity for a shooting,” she said.
“I had friends who felt uncomfortable leaving their classrooms because they knew that people who sat around them own guns and would judge them for their decisions.
“People should always have the right to feel safe and exercise their rights to civil disobedience without fearing for their lives,” she added.
Lill On Arming Teachers
Lill said arming teachers “is the worst idea” of those being proposed to address school violence.
“Teachers and students are in a close environment,” he said. “Many of us have a good relationship with our teachers. And we would know where they keep their gun most likely.
“All it takes is a student to be acting silly, and a teacher could misread that and end up shooting a student who is unarmed and was just trying to make a joke.”
“Should a shooting happen,” Lill continued, “you are going to ask a teacher to shoot a student that they see every day.
“Many of you have children,” Lill said. “You know your children very well. You probably know your children’s friends.
“If you had to, would you be able to shoot them?”
After getting a negative response from the crowd, Lill said: “And I don’t think any of the teachers would be able to either. Politicians out there, please don’t arm the teachers.”
String Of Speakers
The program, held in the pavilion at the tennis courts in Oconee Veterans Park, began just after 11 a.m. and ran for just more than 80 minutes.
In addition to Daniell and Parrish, speakers included Democrats Jonathan Wallace, 119th Georgia House District representative, and Deborah Gonzalez, 117th Georgia House District representative.
Marisue Hilliard, running as a Democrat in Senate District 46, also spoke, as did Democratic candidates for the 10th U.S. Congressional District Chalis Montgomery and Richard Dien Winfield.
At times, some of the candidates did make critical comments about incumbents and nearly all spoke about the resistance of elected officials at the state and federal level to action on gun legislation.
When John Fortuin, running as an independent for the 46th District Senate seat, began attacking President Donald Trump, however, Ann Stoneburner, who organized the event, cut him short, saying that she had promised the Republicans present that the event was not partisan.
My estimate of the crowd size is based on a count of those inside the pavilion as the event began and rough estimate of those standing outside.
The crowd grew as the event progressed.
The video below is of the entire presentation at the Oconee County March For Life Rally.
Cyterski began speaking at 1:05:04.
Lill came to the microphone at 1:09:56.
Daniell began his comments at 1:55.
Parrish spoke at 8:29.