The Eugene community unified on June 11 for the “March for Our Lives” event following the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas where 21 people were killed, including 19 children between the ages of eight and ten on May 24.
This isn’t the first March for Our Lives event to occur in Eugene. Four years ago, in 2018, around 5,000 people gathered—simultaneously with others internationally—for the event following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting where 17 people were killed. Survivors of that shooting soon formed Never Again MSD, a student-run political action committee that focuses on gun violence.
Under substantial rainfall, the “March for Our Lives” event began at 12 p.m. in solidarity with others nationwide and, like the event four years prior, began on the steps in front of the Federal Courthouse. By the time speeches began, there were already around 300-or-so people gathered with groups still arriving.
The first public figure to speak was Julie Fahey, Oregon House Majority leader. She spoke of Oregon’s legislative action on gun violence—following the Umpqua Community College shooting/massacre—citing red flag laws, banning gun ownership for domestic abusers. Fahey also stressed that they—Oregon’s government—has not done enough, and can go further in legislative action. She ended her speech by affirming her and Democrats resolve in fighting gun violence and for the lives of Oregon’s children.
The second politician to speak, State Senator Floyd Prozanski, echoed similar sentiments as Representative Fahey. Along with touting Oregon’s low gun violence and school shooting statistics, and echoing Oregon’s federal representatives commitment on gun violence legislation.
The organizers—and youth of Eugene—Jivan Jot Khalsa, Piper Everts, Amelia Sydes, Samantha Streisfeld, and Miles Pendelton maintained slogans during the march, never leaving the front or silencing their rage at the institutions failing them. During their speeches many shared frustration in being years away from voting, years away from adulthood while facing the brunt of gun violence — with no ability to fight it.
“I have been training to hide, play dead, and fight since I was in kindergarten because of gun violence,” Piper Everts said. “Six year olds shouldn’t be scared going to school because they think they’ll be shot”
Adults were urged to vote in any and every election, that we must fight gun violence and for the lives of our nation’s children.
Around 12:45 p.m., a smaller crowd of approximately 200-300 people assembled in the street and prepared to march. At the same time, Richard Elce—also known in the local antifascist community as “Flaggy McStabby”—was spotted, across the street, in the Whole Foods parking lot.
Elce, a member of The American Patriots Society, or TAPS, who has repeatedly shown up to leftist events and has assaulted people, was in his red Ford Focus—still missing a rear passenger window—which was stopped in the middle of the parking lot’s driving aisle. From there, he looked at the crowd through binoculars, recorded individuals on his cellphone, and appeared to be talking to someone via a two-way radio. After being asked to leave Whole Foods, Elce had moved his vehicle over to the Good Times Cafe and Bar where he continued to, apparently, record the march through the windshield.
In recent weeks, Elce has been targeting the march’s lead adult consultant Monica Olson on Facebook. A day prior, he replied to Olson’s public posting about the March for Our Lives event by stating that it was an “open carry” event and to “be sure to pack.” Olson, immediately, and clearly, responded and said that it was not.
The march went forwards across the street and went into downtown before looping back to the Federal Courthouse. During it, the youth organizers who led the march shouted out the beginning of chants that were concluded by the crowd behind them.
Some of the chants included “defund the NRA,” “we shouldn’t have to be here,” “we want peace,” “arms are for hugging,” and “pass gun laws.”
The atmosphere of the march was calm. People discussed politics, the future of our country, current affairs, and one elder commented on the organizers by saying that “the kids are doing a good job.”
As fathers held elementary school-aged children and teenagers screamed in the streets, Eugene families did what they could to demand change.
By 1:30 p.m., the crowd, which had gotten a bit smaller than when it started, returned to the Federal Courthouse before formally ending the event.
There will be another march, mostly led by the local NAACP, that will take place on June 26.