NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Standing on her porch with Sherie Miller and her toddler Tramire, who survived a drive-by bullet wound in October, Rev. Scott Marks asked the youth marchers for Love, Jobs, and Peace to offer a moment of silence for all the youth who have been killed by gun violence in New Haven. He then asked the marchers for a moment of silence for all the children who died at the hands of a spree shooter in Newtown on Dec. 14.
"There is hope," said Marks, when "young people lead us in a march for justice, for jobs, to have the courage to stand up." Speaking of the daily violence on city streets Marks said, "Justice is not just for a few. There has to be justice for all."
The youth march, from the Peoples Center to Kensington Street, was organized by New Elm City Dream to connect the issue of handgun violence to the need for jobs for youth and everyone in the community.
This was the second of two extraordinary Valentine marches against gun violence in Connecticut.
The March for Change, held four days earlier, attracted 5,500 to the state capitol. The largely suburban crowd came to Hartford on the two-month anniversary of the Newtown killings. Many had never participated in a protest before. Hand-made signs showed anger at the National Rifle Association (NRA) whose president had dismissed support for gun safety laws as the post-Newtown "Connecticut effect."
"This is the Connecticut effect," said one speaker pointing to the huge crowd, assembled on the snow in front of the Capitol building, "and we vote."
Organizers Nancy Lefkowitz and Meg Staunton said the march was aimed at "changing the conversation, our culture, and our laws." Throughout the rally in speeches, songs and quotes from Martin Luther King and President Obama the point was made that change can be won when people come together and take a stand.
The March for Change called on the State Legislature to ban high capacity weapons, require background checks and annual license renewal, and safe storage.
"Let the State of Connecticut become an agent for change for gun safety," declared Veronique Pozner whose son was the youngest to be killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Shortly after, newly elected Sen. Chris Murphy issued his third report on the NRA showing that while NRA leadership opposes universal background checks for gun purchasers, 74 percent of NRA members support this and other "common sense measures to reduce gun violence."
"I hope more and more gun owners realize that the NRA's leadership has become unhinged from the responsible gun owners across America the NRA claims to represent," said Murphy.
His earlier report, "How the Firearms Industry Funnels Millions to the NRA," reveals the vast sums of money the NRA receives from gun and ammunition manufacturers and retailers, which in turn shapes the organization's lobbying agenda. The report cites the NRA's Round-Up program and the NRA Golden Ring of Freedom, "reserved for individuals and organizations that contribute at least $1 million to the NRA. In return for these corporate contributions, the association incites fear about the government confiscating guns to increase gun sales despite declining ownership of guns in the U.S." Less than 20 percent of NRA-backed candidates won election in 2012.
The horror of Newtown sparked national attention and debate. President Obama's State of the Union Address included the daily horrors of gun violence in cities with high unemployment where the lives of African American youth are lost daily. Referring to the House Republican leadership's refusal to bring gun legislation to the floor, Obama said that these youth all "deserve a vote."
The thousands who rallied at the State Capitol in Hartford after digging out from a blizzard, like similar groups across the country, including many gun owners, are now ready to take on the NRA because of the horrible consequences.
Gathered at the Peoples Center before the Valentine March for Love, Jobs and Peace, the New Elm City Dream announced the results of its survey of nearly 600 New Haven youth. Over half in this poverty stricken city said they had personally been exposed to violence. The message of the march was "less violence and more jobs."
Holding little Tramire Miller on his Kensington Street porch, New Elm City Dream leader Capria Marks led the crowd in chanting, "Jobs for Youth - Jobs for All. Yes We Can!" exemplifying hope for the future.
Photo: Art Perlo/PW