scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Sandy Hook and Parkland survivors join Boston rally against gun violence

A rally to end gun violence organized by students from Emerson College was held on Boston Common Saturday afternoon.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Sandy Hook and Parkland school shooting survivors joined students and activists on Boston Common on Saturday afternoon to rally against gun violence.

Participants gathered at the Parkman Bandstand to share their experiences with gun violence, words of affirmation, and demands for gun regulations.

“Sandy Hook should have been enough,” CJ Hoekenga, 20, a survivor of the December 2012 shooting that left 26 elementary school students and teachers dead, told the crowd. “Sandy Hook should have been the end of this.”

Hoekenga said he was 9 years old when the gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing the students and teachers. Now, a student at Emerson College, he said he works to ensure that no one else has to endure that kind of experience.


“It’s just my one wish that another community doesn’t have to go through that because it’s heartbreaking, it’s traumatizing, it’s terrible,” he said in an interview before the event.

Among the survivors of mass shootings at the event was Jaclyn Corin, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., one of the co-founders of March for Our Lives and is now a student at Harvard College.

In addition to Hoekenga, speakers included Sandy Hook shooting survivor Jordan Gomes; the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute’s Policy and Advocacy coordinator, Pace McConkie Jr.; and students from the Emerson College Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence initiative.

Attendees at Saturday's rally held signs. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The event was organized by Emerson College students in partnership with the nonprofit Stop Handgun Violence and March for Our Lives.

Students from Boston Latin School, Emerson, Simmons University, and Harvard were among the attendees.

In a show of hands, the majority of people in the crowd, which numbered about 30, indicated they knew someone affected by gun violence.

Julia Raiani, a student at Simmons, said she decided to come to the rally after she heard about it on social media. She was attending another elementary school in Newtown when the Sandy Hook shooting happened.


“Growing up in Newtown after the Sandy Hook shooting – the community was just so impacted by it,” she said in an interview. “People are still recovering and the trauma lasts forever.”

She said she recognized about four or five other people from Newtown at the rally.

“It gives me a lot of hope to see that people are still out here,” she said.

Organizers had set up a table where participants could register to vote and learn about legislative activism against gun violence.

Donna Wald, president of Cape Cod Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, said everyone should be engaged in the fight against gun violence.

“It’s not just up to the kids. They got here because we didn’t do our job,” she said in an interview after the event. “Younger people have a lot of other things that they could be doing with their lives and that they should be doing with their lives, so I hold them in complete admiration for standing up and trying to get this done.”

Isabela Rocha can be reached at