March For Our Lives rally draws hundreds to Beaver Courthouse


Attendees of the March For Our Lives rally at the Beaver County Courthouse stand behind Joe McGurk, a candidate for the 10th PA House District, as he gives his speech on gun-safety legislation on March 24.

On March 24, more than 300 people stood at the steps of the Beaver County Courthouse and chanted that “enough is enough” during “March For Our Lives,” a rally to protest gun violence and advocate legislative change. Students, parents and community members attended the event, some bringing signs.

The original march was planned for Washington D.C. by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that happened on Feb. 14. Sister marches were planned worldwide in places such as New York City, Los Angeles, England and Beaver County.

The rally in Beaver was hosted by Beaver County Young Democrats, Moral Mondays and the 12th CD Chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America. The event was one of more than 800 rallies or marches nationwide.

The organizers booked speakers that ranged from students to local politicians.

“We really wanted to focus on the students as much as possible and to include some local politicians. We had to put this event together very quickly, so we reached out to our contacts to help find students as well as advertising that we were looking for speakers on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts,” President of Beaver County Young Democrats Victoria Smith, an organizer for the rally, said.

The event featured students from Hopewell High School, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School and University of Pittsburgh.

One student, Alexis Ozimok, a senior from Hopewell High School, focused her speech around the idea that gun laws should be stricter and people should stay involved even after the rally.

“I believe the biggest motivator for me [to speak at the rally] was the fact that I desire change. The apathy I’ve witnessed regarding school and gun violence from legislators is unbelievable, and I wanted them to hear my voice. Conversely, I’ve seen such an outpouring of support from students, teachers and community members, and I really wanted to channel all of their efforts into a public statement and use my platform to make their voices heard,” Ozimok said.

Aside from students, politicians like Ray Linsenmayer, candidate for the 17th Congressional District; Joe McGurk, candidate for the 10th PA House District; Amy Fazio, candidate for the 14th PA House District; and Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker also spoke at the event.

“We can’t just expect older generations to be the only active ones. We need every age group to be involved, especially those that are most strongly impacted by the gun violence in schools. Kids shouldn’t just be studying. This activism gives students real-world experience that augments their studying,” Linsenmayer said of the student-organized event.

One theme of the rally mentioned by most speakers was that voting is important, but people under the age of 18 can make a difference, too.

“[One major takeaway from the event is] the importance of voting. If we don’t vote, then the issues we care about don’t make it into the conversation. If you aren’t old enough to vote, you can still call or write letters to your representative about the policies that you as a future voter care about,” Smith said.

As a part of the crowd that attended the rally, there were multiple supporters from the Freedom Area community as well. Sophomore Julianna Hawk attended the event, while also representing the Beaver County Youth Ambassador Program.

“I want to make it clear that most people want safer schools and more control regarding who can get a gun. Also, the rally was not about taking away people’s guns but about making a safer community,” Hawk said of why she attended the rally.

Pogue Regan, a sixth-grade student at Freedom, also attended the rally with her mother.

“[Students speaking their voices] is important because if there are school shootings going on, we can’t really study if we are fearing for our lives. We can’t really focus if we have to worry about people coming into our school,” Regan said.

A block away from the courthouse, around 100 people showed up sporting Donald Trump signs, American flag apparel and National Rifle Association flags in support of the Second Amendment. Bill Fortuna, who is the president of the Beaver Valley Rifle and Pistol Club, as well as retired police officer Sam Piccinini co-organized the event 12 hours before it started.

Smith mentions that even after the rally, there are still steps that constituents can take to ensure that representatives hear their voices. As a part of the new movement “Town Hall For Our Lives,” there will be a town hall meeting on April 7 at the Beaver Borough Building at 1:00 p.m. Besides that, she mentions that voters can continue to be aware of events in the community and have conversations with others about these issues.