SILVER SPRING – People varied in age from infants to senior citizens, but everyone who attended the outdoor June 8 Disarm Hate Rally was clad at least partially in bright orange.
Organized primarily by Montgomery County Moms Demand Action, the rally, walk and block party were part of Gun Violence Awareness Day.
“We need to disarm hate and be unified,” Maryland Sen. Susan Lee (D-16) said to an applauding crowd assembled at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
“We can’t do this by ourselves. All our different communities have to be unified,” she said. “Mass violence has become commonplace, and we have become numb. We have to stop this.”
Gun violence is not acceptable, she said, adding, “Unfortunately, our president has made this worse.”
Lee urged the several hundred people in attendance to “take our country back. This is America.”
She called for mandatory background checks before someone in Maryland purchases a gun, which is an idea she has worked on in the legislature this past term but was unable to get passed.
Many of those who spoke that morning, and many of the signs they carried, declared, “enough is enough.”
Giselle Morch of Silver Spring is a mother of three, one of whom was killed. She described her son as “a superhero. The man with a million-dollar smile.”
Everyone must speak out on social media, write to politicians and newspapers and attend rallies, said Morch, who is an Everytown Survivor Fellow and a spokesperson for for the county’s chapter Moms Demand Action, a grassroots gun violence prevention organization founded after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Ethan Tiao, a rising senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, came early to the rally to adorn the outside walls of the area only recently reserved for ice skaters, with white T-shirts, each bearing the name of a young person who was gunned down.
“Being a student, this issue affects me every day. It’s always a nagging feeling” that a shooter could enter his school and start a rampage, said Tiao, who is a part of Youth Creating Change.
“I go to school every day with fear.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin told the crowd that all the shootings at religious institutions, schools and elsewhere occur at “the intersection of violence and hate.”
He called the politicians who represent Montgomery County, both in the state and locally, “firearm rock stars” and vowed to continue working with them “to support firearm safety legislation.”
Following the speeches, music and dance interludes, attendees walked a half-mile through downtown Silver Spring in a Unity Walk to Disarm Hate. Many carried signs.
When they finished, they returned to a Wear Orange Block Party, where numerous tables were set up.
Many of the tables were manned by groups involved in organizations promoting non-violence. Volunteers passed out literature and took down the names of interested people.
At other tables, children chased bubbles, drew chalk pictures and had their faces painted.
There were orange refreshments, featuring lollipops, Goldfish crackers, and of course, oranges.
According to Melissa Golladay, of Moms Demand Action, who manned a table where people decorated a small box as part of the Soul Box project, approximately 100 people in this country are killed daily by guns.
Golladay, of Rockville, hoped to collect 100 boxes to send to Portland, Oregon, where the project originated.
Other groups with tables included Brady Campaign-MoCo, Communities Against Hate, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rites, Do the Most Good – Montgomery, EveryMind, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and several churches, synagogues and mosques.
Wearing orange has become a national symbol against gun violence. It started in 2013, when Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15, just one week after she performed at former President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural parade.
Her friends urged people to speak out and wear orange in her memory.