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Newtown's 'Sea Of Orange' For National Gun Violence Awareness Day



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Main Street sidewalks are normally not very populated, but on Thursday evening, June 2, over 200 people created a sea of orange walking from Fairfield Hills to Edmond Town Hall, via Wasserman Way and Main Street. There were waves, thumbs-ups, and honks of support from passersby.

The Orange Walk and Rally, concluding at Edmond Town Hall, was part of a national "Wear Orange" campaign. It was held on the second annual Gun Violence Awareness Day, as proclaimed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy and First Selectman Pat Llodra in May.

The Wear Orange campaign and National Gun Violence Awareness Day was inspired by Chicago teens who refused to be silent in the face of daily gun violence. Those in Newtown joined people across the country wearing orange.

Once the crowd arrived at Edmond Town Hall for the rally, they heard speeches from seven people affected by gun violence and advocating prevention of gun violence.

"No one expects gun violence in their life," Nicole Hockley, the mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School victim Dylan Hockley and a leader of Sandy Hook Promise, said to the crowd. "No one believes it will touch them, but sadly it is more likely that it will impact your life than not - whether a tragedy in another part of the country affects your perspective, or whether you think about a shooting every time your child's school goes into lockdown, or whether, like here, it directly impacts your community or your family."

June 2 was chosen for Gun Violence Awareness Day because it was the birthday of Hadiya Pendleton. A performer at President Obama's second inaugural address, the Chicago teen was killed in a shooting, Ron Pinciaro, the executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said in his speech Thursday night. Mr Pinciaro added that the color orange was chosen because it is the color hunters wear to be seen and protected from other hunters.

"Today, and every other June 2 from now on, people across the country will be wearing orange and will be holding events like this so that our elected leaders will know this is American culture," Mr Pinciaro said. "It does not include the mass marketing of guns with all of the social consequences that that brings."

The Reverend Matt Crebbin, senior pastor of Newtown Congregational Church, encouraged the crowd to not "lose heart."

"May a sea of orange continue to be seen and known and felt everywhere," Rev Crebbin said. "In every nook and cranny of this great land may all know that we will not pause and stop on this journey, that we will go forward, and we will change this world that is addicted to gun violence."

Mrs Llodra, who also attended and spoke, said that the voices at the event were joined by hundreds and thousands across the nation.

"I dream of a time when gun violence is not so present in our lives," Mrs Llodra said. "Let us raise our voice and elevate our passion for an end to this scourge, which robs our nation of commitment we need to fulfill that all persons can live their lives free from the dangers of violence."

Other speakers included Po Murray, chairman of Newtown Action Alliance; Abbey Clements, a former Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher and survivor engagement lead with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; and Tom Campbell, a family member of a gun violence victim.

"We were hoping that Newtown did not move on, and [will] continue to remember and honor the victims of gun violence from Newtown and beyond," Ms Murray said after the event ended. "You hope that they'll stay engaged until we create the changes necessary to reduce gun violence in our nation."

After the speeches were given, a shuttle bus transported people to a free screening of the documentary, Under The Gun, at AMC Loews Danbury.

The event was organized through the partnering of Newtown Action Alliance, Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Sandy Hook Promise, Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence, and the Brady Campaign Southwestern CT Chapter.

An Advocate For Common Sense Laws

Ahead of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Mary Ann Jacob published an article at vogue.com. Ms Jacob works in the Sandy Hook Elementary School library, is a member of Sandy Hook Educators for Gun Sense, and is a fellow for Everytown for Gun Safety. The article, "I Think of People Who Died at Sandy Hook Every Day," appeared online on May 24, as part of an 11-day series of articles leading up to June 2.

The article describes some of her memories from being at Sandy Hook School on 12/14, from experiences with her sons, and of working at the school.

Her role for Everytown for Gun Safety, Ms Jacob said, is to speak publicly and advocate for gun violence prevention. Her online article was part of her efforts with Everytown for Gun Safety, and she recently spoke on an American Library Association podcast, the "Dewey Decibel Podcast." The "Library Security: Making Your Space Safer" episode was released on May 23.

Ms Jacob said she looks for new opportunities every day to speak to local or state groups about gun violence prevention.

In her family, Ms Jacob said gun violence prevention and second amendment rights "live side by side comfortably. We believe in both of those things, and I believe they can [live side by side] in everyone's life."

Ways people can act, Ms Jacob said, include asking people running for office if they support gun violence prevention; parents can ask when their children visit friends whether there are guns in the home and if they are secured properly; and doctors can be encouraged to speak to patients about safety in the home.

"There are just so many ways to have common sense, gun laws that do not infringe on the second amendment right to bear arms," said Ms Jacob.


Nicole Hockley, the mother of SHS victim Dylan Hockley and a co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, speaks to the crowd on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, from the steps of Edmond Town Hall. (Bee Photo, Peck)
Walkers begin the walk from NYA Sports & Fitness Center at Fairfield Hills, heading toward Edmond Town Hall, just over two miles away, for the June 2 Orange Walk and Rally. (Bee Photo, Peck)
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