BELFAST — In unison with similar rallies going on throughout the country, approximately 100 people met at the Belfast post office on Franklin Street Saturday, June 11, in a march demanding action to curb gun violence.

The protest, and others like it across the country, was organized in coordination with the group March For Our Lives, a group founded by students following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 14, 2018. It was organized in response to recent mass-shooting incidents in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

Belfast event organizer Michelle Cooklin said during a prepared speech to the assembled crowd that approximately 311,000 students in the U.S. have experienced a mass shooting. She then went on to read several Maine-specific statistics, including that in 2020, 154 people were killed by guns in Maine. She further told the crowd that the state has no limit on magazine capacity and no law requiring a permit to carry a firearm. Cooklin also asked the crowd whether children should fear going to school, or whether people should fear going to the movie theater, churches or the grocery store, to which those in attendance shouted a resounding “no.”

Participants in Saturday’s March For Our Lives rally walk down Main Street. Photo by William Carroll

Following the rally, those assembled marched down Main Street to the intersection of Main and High streets and stood at all four corners of the intersection for an hour, holding signs and speaking with one another.

The Republican Journal spoke to several of those in attendance to discuss with them their reasons for attending the event and what they would like to see with respect to gun laws.

Kim Fleming of Belfast said that she is originally from Newtown, Connecticut, site of the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Fleming said she had a direct connection to that shooting as she attended the funeral of one of the students who lost their lives in the incident. The child’s parents were friends she had known for a long time.

Participants in the June 11 March For Our Lives event in downtown Belfast hold signs prior to the event. Photo by William Carroll

“Absolutely devastating,” Fleming said of the Sandy Hook shooting and school shootings in general. “When are we going to do something?”

Fleming said in her opinion automatic weapons need to go away. She said people also need to start electing people who care about children more than they care about their own political path. She said her son was the same age as some of the kids who died in Newtown and she still fears for his safety anytime she drops him off at school.

Belfast resident Mike Bird said she was here for her granddaughter, who was also present at the rally, and other youngsters who are facing these issues.

Bird said she felt that voters need to vote out those senators and representatives who are making it difficult to change the nation’s gun laws. She said that while she understands that new laws can not be written overnight, “enough is enough.” She suggested what she defined as “sensible incremental laws” such as raising age limits to purchase firearms and background checks.

Jana Herbener of Searsmont and her sister Rachel Herbener of Belfast also urged changes to the nation’s gun laws.

Jana Herbener said, “no other wealthy countries have gun violence like this.”

She urged Congress to ban assault-style weapons, saying she felt that it should be harder for people to get guns.

Rachel Herbener said her concern is that U.S. citizens are being killed by U.S. citizens with military-style assault weapons. She also suggested banning assault weapons.

No one we spoke to suggested outlawing guns outright; they simply asked for more restrictive gun laws, specifically around assault weapons and other similar firearms.

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