Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

Hemet grade-school student leads anti-gun, stop-school-violence march


Last updated 3/31/2018 at 1:27pm

Tony Ault

More than 300 Hemet school children, parents, seniors, teachers and area residents gather Saturday, March 24, under the flagpole at Gibbel Park to join more that 1 million others across the nation calling for Congress to enact strong gun control legislation to better protect children in schools from gun violence.

More than 300 men, women and children took to Hemet's downtown streets Saturday, March 24, carrying signs and demanding a change in the nation's gun laws and safer schools.

The sign-carrying, shouting marchers for a time occupied the corners of the intersections of Florida and Sanderson avenues and Kirby Street and Florida Avenue, bringing on honks and cheers from passing motorists. The rally and demands for gun law change continued after the one-and-a-half hour march in Hemet's Gibbel Park for nearly an hour longer.

The march down Florida Avenue which demanded changes in the sales of deadly automatic weapons, stricter gun ownership requirements and safer schools was led by 11-year-old Bautista Creek Elementary School student, Destiny Myrtle, her mother and grandmother.

Destiny, fearing a shooting like the one that occurred in Parkland, Florida, might happen in her school, took her thoughts home and asked her mother Mary Thomas and grandmother Melissa Squire to put her fears on social media and let others know gun violence everywhere must stop.

The Hemet march came in unison with the nationwide student movement, "March for Our Lives," that same day more than 1 million students, teachers, parents and guardians participated in marches from coast-to-coast and in Washington, the nation's capital. The rally and march was strongly supported by the Democrats of Hemet San Jacinto.

The turnout at Gibbel Park surprised Destiny.

"At my school, I had threats my school was going to get shot up by a kid I seen every day," Destiny said. "He gives threats every day he is going to shoot up our school. So, I came here to solve the gun threat cus' I don't feel safe in my school at all."

She said her "mom and grandma" helped her put the message on social media.

"We have it all over social media a couple of weeks ago," Destiny said. Looking around at the crowd, she said "I didn't expect all these people to come out, I thought, maybe, 50 people. This is my first march, so I didn't know how many people would come to it."

She said she hoped the march would help keep people from using guns for violence, and the marches would continue to go on until change happens.

Destiny's blog calling for a march against assault weapons and school violence caught the attention of marchers. Mount San Jacinto College student Estrella, who didn't give her last name, said she is very afraid now because of all the school shootings.

"I am here today for people to get common-sense gun control, so students don't have to fear going to school again and to be safe in our country," she said.

A Santa Rosa Academy student Steven A. said he saw the march as inspiring.

"I think it's inspiring because we see so many people gathered here united for one cause. For me, it's to show that guns don't have a place in school and that legislation must be passed to make sure assault weapons and stuff like that are not in the hands of people who cannot handle them," he said. He also noted that he did not see that enough was being done for the mental health of people disturbed enough to use guns against others.

The rally at the end of the march brought speakers on top of the flagpole hill in Gibbel Park to share their reasons for seeking legislative action for better gun control.

Tony Ault

Hemet community activist Marie McDonald takes up the megaphone in Gibbel Park at the March 24 "March for Our Lives" rally to urge people to vote for stronger gun control measures and ensure better safety in schools in the community. She urges all to register and vote, especially those students now turning 17 and 18, to bring about change in the nation.

U.S. Army Veteran Levi Hand took the megaphone to tell the crowd he owned an AR-15 and other weapons but he supported better gun control, particularly automatic weapons he said were only used for one thing, "killing people."

A Hemet High School student who said she was studying to be a physician wondered if one day the person she was operating on would be in for regular surgery or for a gunshot wound. She said the students are afraid that it might be the last time they tell a friend "goodbye" because they would become the victim of a school shooting.

Marie McDonald, a well-known community activist said, "I think this is a demonstration of our community for our children who are taking into their own hands to protect their safety, and our politicians don't listen to them and don't protect them."

She said she sees if the politicians don't listen to them they will soon be voted out of office. Her thoughts on the best way to protect school students would be for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to ban all assault weapons like other counties are beginning to do in California.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]


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