'We Must Work To Dismantle Hate.' In Oakland, Students Rally Around Gun Reform

Oct 31, 2018

At the foot of the Cathedral of Learning, a building known for its representation of nationalities from around the world, students gathered to call for unity and demand changes to gun policy in the United States.

The rally comes four days after a gunman killed 11 people and injured six at a the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Emily Svitek with Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Speakers included members of the gun reform organization, Students Demand Action, Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign. Most were themselves Jewish students at the University of Pittsburgh and Chatham University. As a crowd squeezed into the big tent at Schenley Plaza, speakers urged attendees to vote for candidates who supported gun reform.

“Action can arise from sorrow. You are not voiceless, and there is power in the voice of a community affected by tragedy,” said Emily Svitek, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Pittsburgh chapter of Students Demand Action.

 

The group formed this winter, after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Svitek said the group didn't want to immediately bring up gun control after Saturday's shooting. 

"We wanted to give the community time to mourn. We understand that people are offering their thoughts and prayers, and for a specific amount of time, we felt that that was needed," said Svitek. "But we now feel that the time for thoughts and prayers is over, and that we need to take political action ... against our legislative leaders."

 

 The crowd was enthusiastic, occasionally chanting “vote them out” in reference to legislators they felt had not done enough to change existing gun policy. The suspected gunman in Saturday’s shooting reportedly had 21 guns registered to him. Among the four weapons he used at the synagogue was a semiautomatic gun, versions of which have been used in previous mass shootings in the U.S.