The March for Our Lives that swept the nation Saturday didn’t only draw people to Boston and other major cities.
Across Massachusetts, small cities and towns held marches and rallies to press for stricter gun control laws and safer school in the wake of the mass shooting last month that killed 17 at a Florida high school.
“We love that we sent ambassadors on trains and buses and cars to the larger protests, but Ipswich is a really tight community,” said Kerrie Bates, who helped to organize a rally in that North Shore town. “We felt we needed to occupy space right here. I think it’s super important to protest in our own communities.”
Residents were encouraged to create art and make signs to bring to the rally on the town green. “We were blown away,” Bates said of Saturday’s turnout. “We had over 200 people. And they came from every corner of the green, carrying signs and drums and flags.”
In Plymouth, more than 200 people showed up for a demonstration in the Town Hall Green organized by high school students.
“A huge problem is that a lot of kids feel like we don’t have the ability to speak out,” said Emmie Kelly, 16, a junior at Plymouth North High School who helped organize the event. “We can’t vote. We can’t say that much in school. What opportunities do we actually have? So when one presents itself, I think we have to take advantage of it.”
Zachary McCone, a 17-year-old student at Plymouth North. said he thinks many students have been more politically active since the 2016 election.
“This is definitely a first step,” he said. “We will definitely continue to be loud and boisterous. And we will get to the polls later on when we can vote.”
All the student organizers in Plymouth prepared speeches for the rally, but several individuals also performed music and poetry, Kelly said.
“We also had signups for any student performers who wanted to speak or sing or song or play an instrument, because one of the main ideas is that these are real people with real talents whose lives are being taken away,” she said.
Rallies were also held in Central and Western Massachusetts.
More than 1,000 people also responded that they were attending Worcester’s march, which ended at City Hall, according to the event Facebook page.
Lynn Dischler, a Bolton resident who attended, was impressed by the student-led demonstration that drew thousands to the city.
“I just love seeing the students all getting involved,” she said. “So I wanted to support them in any way I can.”
In Springfield, more than 1,000 people showed up to participate in the march which began in Court Square, headed downtown, then circled back to City Hall, said Amelia Ryan, an 18-year-old senior at Longmeadow High School and one of the students who organized the event.
Several members of the community spoke at the rally, including students and religious leaders, in addition to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Richard Neal.
“I think it went really well,” said Sarah Reyes, another student organizer and a 16-year-old sophomore at Longmeadow High School. “Having that many people there really amplified our message and made sure our voices would be heard as a national movement.”
Ryan said the shooting hit her community particularly hard since Springfield houses the headquarters of Smith and Wesson Corp., a national firearms manufacturing company.
“That drives the point home,” Reyes said. “The guns that killed 17 people in six minutes were manufactured by a company that has its corporate headquarters in Springfield.”
Reyes said students protested at the gates of Smith and Wesson last week and wrote letters to the company begging them to halt their donations to the NRA, but have received no response.
But they don’t want to lost their momentum, Ryan said, and are planning to start a Western Massachusetts chapter of Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a campaign started by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“We’re seeing a lot of support for that,” Ryan said.