Handmade posters aloft, an estimated 150 people took to the streets of Menlo Park around noon on Saturday, March 24, to protest gun violence and as part of the national "March for our Lives" event.
The group gathered at Art Ventures gallery at 889 Santa Cruz Ave. and walked along Santa Cruz Avenue to Hillview Middle School and back.
The event was organized by gallery owner Katharina Powers, who said she wanted to organize something in Menlo Park that would be easier for local families to access than events in other cities.
She's also asked mayors across the Peninsula to consider launching a gun buyback program. The logistics of such programs are tricky, Ms. Powers said – there are careful protocols to follow to guarantee safety, protect against weapon theft and offer safe weapon storage – and she's been told that such events probably can't be arranged until near the end of the year, she said.
As a student growing up in Germany, she said, she participated in weekly demonstrations. She said it was important to "Stand up. Don't sit back. Be persistent." As a mom of four kids, she said, it's hard to send them to school, given fears about gun violence. "We have to do something," Ms. Powers said.
Reasons they marched
While on the streets - in many cases, eliciting car honks of support - participants gave different reasons for what led them to join the march.
One family out walking had three generations represented: grandpa Don Albers, mom Lisa Silberman and kids Hannah and Max. Hannah, 8, said she was marching because of "the guns. They're not good." Ms. Silberman said she hopes the nationwide activism will be "a turning point" and noted that, while she's wary of talking about guns with her kids, they have had lockdown drills in schools.
"I don't think assault rifles have any place in a civilized society," said Becky Fischbach.
Rita Popat, a Menlo Park resident who has a daughter who attends Menlo-Atherton, said she was participating because, while the 17-minute National Walkout event was "a good place to start," it's "not enough."
Naomi James, 8, said she was marching because, "We want peace, to help this community."
Her attending grown-up, Noelle Thurlow, said she was marching because she wants "sensible laws to protect our children."
Caleb and Nathan, fifth-graders at Encinal Elementary, said they were walking to protest gun violence. Caleb said his cousin was killed in a school shooting in Connecticut at age six.
Neve, a seventh-grader who lives in Mountain View and goes to school in Palo Alto, held a poster that said "As a girl, I hope to have as many rights as a gun one day."
"I think there shouldn't be gun violence," she said. "I want to show support for people who lost people they love."
Her mom, Vera Cheng, said that she encouraged her daughter to learn more about the youth activism and the problem of gun violence.
Art in the making
Lin Evola, an artist who has strong local ties to the area – she attended Santa Clara University and the San Francisco Art Institute – also participated in the march. In 1992, she founded the Peace Angels Project, which collects street weapons, weapons of mass destruction and stainless steel from decommissioned missiles, melts them down, and turns them into metal art sculptures intended as symbols of peace.
She's currently working on projects to build 64-foot-tall sculptures in New York City and Los Angeles, each of which is intended to be made from 1 million decommissioned weapons. She and her group are in the process of collecting weapons.
She announced she is also planning a third 64-foot sculpture in Silicon Valley, and is looking for a site for the sculpture to stand. She's open to suggestions – people can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ms. Evola is scheduled to show her work at Art Ventures Gallery in May.