But the one that stood out the most wasn’t hand-held. It was a huge sign standing more than 6 feet tall and more than twice as wide, bearing the statement, “We’re the Change.”
Hundreds of people wrote comments on the sign as they rallied to promote stricter gun laws in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last month.
“Common sense gun reform is necessary,” said Grand Haven’s Nichol Stack, moments after she penned a message on the sign. “Kids are dying and demanding it, and I stand with them.”
The rally was organized by local students, and several teens addressed the crowd Saturday, telling those in attendance they no longer feel safe going to school each day.
Stack was encouraged by the activism shown by the teenagers who participated.
“It means we’re going to see change in the elections because they’re going to be voting the next couple years, and I’m excited about it.”
Most of the signs bore anti-gun sentiments, such as “Put your weapons down! Raise up your voice,” “Books not bullets,” “I should be writing my college essay, not my will,” and “Fire Huizenga, the NRA’s puppet” in reference to U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga.
But off to one side of the park, Nick Berger and Jake Swiftney held a sign that read, “Guns are not the problem.”
“We definitely do not thing guns are the problem,” said Berger, 19. “It’s mental illness we need to be working with and trying to help. If somebody is going to do something horrific, hurt a bunch of people, they don’t have to use a gun. … Even if you got rid of guns, they’d find other ways.”
“People are all about gun control, but people are already getting guns illegally,” added Swiftney, 19.
The two said that they were the target of plenty of slanderous statements from others at the rally.
“There’s been some pretty rude comments, but there have been other people that have been totally respectful, talking to us, having a conversation,” Berger said.
GHHS student Jackson Schulte was one of the organizers of Saturday’s march, which began with a prayer, before marchers walked down Washington Avenue to Harbor Drive before coming back to Central Park to listen to several speakers.
“I’m really happy with how this is going,” Schulte said. “A lot of the students’ opinions, I really value them. And it was a really powerful statement to see people stretched from Harbor all the way up to Central Park. That was very powerful to me.”
Schulte added that the demographics of the crowd surprised him – while many in attendance were high school students and young adults, there were plenty of Baby Boomers in the audience as well, as is evidence by the sign that read, “Grandmas against guns.”