Before Saturday’s walk through Boston Common to end gun violence, the hundreds of people who had gathered joined hands for a moment of silence. Ten-year-old Charlie Doyle grabbed hold of Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans’s hand, closed his eyes, and thought of children who had been killed by gun violence.
The Natick boy had a simple message: “I want people to know it’s not okay to have guns out on the streets.”
Beside him, Evans sent up his own prayer: for peace during the holiday season.
They were among several hundred people who came together Saturday afternoon for the Boston Orange Walk organized by the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to commemorate the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting and honor all survivors and victims of gun violence.
“It’s not a protest, it’s not a war,” said Rev. Mark V. Scott, the associate pastor at Azusa Christian Community in Dorchester. “It’s about walking with my neighbor, talking with my neighbor, praying while we walk, praying with my feet.”
Walkers wore orange, a color that hunters wear for safety, and which organizers said signified the dignity of human life. The walk in Boston was one of about 100 events held nationwide this weekend.
“We are walking and wearing orange three years after Sandy Hook for the lives taken that day, but also the 88 lives taken every day by gun violence that is senseless and preventable,” said Molly Malloy, the Massachusetts chapter leader of Moms Demand Action.
Twenty-six people, including 20 first-graders, were killed on Dec. 14, 2012, during the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Malloy, like many who attended the walk, got involved in gun control efforts after that massacre.
“The kids killed that day were the same age as my child,” said Malloy. “I realized there was no reason that happened to those mothers that day and not me.”
Malloy said her group is pushing for universal background checks on all gun purchases, and reforms that will prevent dangerous people from obtaining guns in the first place.
Jennifer Boylan, the Rhode Island chapter leader who came to the Boston walk with her husband and two sons, said she wanted everyone to know that they had a voice in the debate.
“I want everybody to stop sitting on the sidelines,” said Boylan. “I’m just a regular mom. But I can lobby politicians, I can talk to the press, I can advocate for change. My voice is just as important.”
Walkers carrying signs that read “We can end gun violence” made their way from the Boston Common Visitor Information Center on Tremont Street to the steps of the State House, chanting, “Not one more,” and “End gun violence, no more silence.”
State Representative David P. Linsky spoke about the need for gun control measures, and singer and songwriter Mark Erelli sang a song about the darkness of violence growing terribly familiar.
Tina Chery, who heads the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in memory of her slain son, said the period between Nov. 20 and Dec. 20 is Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month. This month, she said, marks 22 years since her 15-year-old son was killed when he was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout while he walked to a Teens Against Gang Violence meeting.
“We have to end gun violence,” Chery said. “It knows no color. It knows no culture. It knows no class. It knows no community.”
Just hours before the walk, at around 2 a.m. in Mattapan, a 26-year-old woman was shot in the shoulder, according to police. She is expected to survive.
“Those are things that literally keep me awake at night, because I get called on them,” said Evans. “But they also keep me awake because I lay there hoping I don’t get the call.”