Valley News -

By Alex Groves
Associate Editor 

Dozens pack duck pond for demonstration advocating for gun legislation, school safety


Last updated 3/30/2018 at 12:50am

Alex Groves

Dozens show up for a demonstration in favor of greater control legislation at the Temecula Duck Pond Saturday, March 24.

Students, religious leaders and political candidates were among the roughly 100 people on all corners of the Temecula Duck Pond Saturday, March 24, as part of demonstration for stricter gun laws and policies to curtail the number of school shootings and violent gun-related incidents.

Passing cars and trucks frequently honked their horns in a show of support as they traveled down Ynez and Rancho California roads while people held signs with such messages as "enough is enough," "ban assault rifles" and "arms are for hugging." The demonstration was one of thousands of events taking place across the country under the "March for Our Lives" banner.

Jennee Scharf, a teacher at Great Oak High School, said GOHS students who are part of the Students Demand Action club were the organizers for the event. Scharf, a faculty adviser for the club, said she was surprised to see the large turnout.

"I've been to probably three or four rallies here for various occasions and we've never spilled out to all four corners," Scharf said during the event Saturday. "We've maybe had 75 to 100 people here and this is incredible. Obviously this is a nonpartisan issue that this community cares about. We're here to protect our kids and create safe spaces in schools."

Scharf said that the event encouraged conversations between people on both sides of the political spectrum, noting that a couple of her students in bright red "Make America Great Again" hats were having conversations with some of the liberal demonstrators about gun control and what that means. She said it can be difficult to have those conversations in today's world.

"It's become so fractious that it's almost impossible to have conversations on this issue," she said. "There are people who say things like, 'they want to take all your guns away' and that's just not what we're talking about. And that lie is being perpetrated to divide us."

John Alfaro, 18, of Temecula was one of two MAGA hat wearing conservatives who arrived at the Duck Pond to debate the merits of alternatives to gun control legislation, such as better mental health treatment and counseling in schools. He said he enjoyed exchanging ideas with people who had opposing viewpoints.

"I do share a lot of the same views, which is what I learned here," Alfaro said. "But I also do not share a lot of the same views. ... It was interesting because it was a learning experience for the both of us."

Debbie Rice, a pastor for the United Church of the Valley in Murrieta, was in attendance at the event alongside members of the church.

"Since I've been here as pastor in this short time, there have been two mass shootings and multiple other shootings and they've really touched the heart of our congregation -- our young people and our old people," Rice said. "We want everybody to know that their voice matters, that their rights matter, and so we've been really inspired by the youth who have spoken up and we want to stand in solidarity with them."

The event was heavily attended by members of local political groups such as the Temecula Valley Democrats as well as candidates for local political office.

Jacob Wetherbee, 21, of Temecula is a member of the Temecula Valley Democrats as well as the Palomar College Democrats and that's how he got involved with the protest. However, he said he feels people on both sides of the political spectrum should be finding solutions.

"This issue of protecting our kids and gun control is bipartisan," he said. "Whether you're Republican or Democrat, we're all against kids getting shot and we all believe this is the greatest country in the world and we can do anything. And we can also reduce the violence caused by guns."

Michelle Singleton, a candidate for State Assembly District 67, was at the event. A teacher for more than a decade, Singleton said she came out to the event to support her students.

Alex Groves

A Trump supporter holds up a sign about gun control in efforts to stir up debate at the Temecula Duck Pond Saturday, March 24.

Two of the younger participants in the event where Cambria Kruckerberg, 14, and her friend Ali Testa, 14, two students who organized a walkout at Temecula Middle School March 14.

Krukerberg said that she and roughly 300 of her peers marched out and delivered speeches about wanting to be safe at the middle school in an event that was cleared by their principal.

The teens said their participation in Duck Pond protest was yet another way to spread the message that something needs to be done to curtail school shootings.

"We feel like for too long there have been way too many shootings, way too many people have been killed by dangerous people getting access to a gun and being able to kill people at school or anywhere really, so we no longer feel safe and we feel the government should do something about it so we came out here to try to make a change," Testa said.

Alex Groves can be reached at [email protected]


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