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Newtown Police Department and event sponsor Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) have released information and advisories ahead of the Sunday, August 12 arrival of participants in the nationwide Road to Change Tour.
March For Our Lives is a movement dedicated to student-led activism around ending gun violence and the epidemic of mass shootings in our schools today. The movement was initiated following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Sometime after 2 pm that day, SHP organizers expect “the dynamic teen activists behind the March For Our Lives (MFOL) movement will come together for the last stop of the Road to Change Tour,” at the Fairfield Hills campus. Activities will be held in the soccer field area east of Keating Farms Avenue — which police say will be closed to traffic during the duration of the event.
Spearheaded by the March For Our Lives and Newtown teens, with support from SHP, the community event will run from 2 to 6 pm and will include speeches from the student activists, voter registration, entertainment, food trucks, and activities for all ages.
“We at Sandy Hook Promise are proud of the important work that the teen activists behind March For Our Lives have accomplished in such a short time. We are devastated over the circumstances that have brought us together for this event, but we will provide our continued support as they affect meaningful change across the country,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Natalie Barden, 16-year old daughter of Mark Barden, managing director of SHP, and sister to Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting, has been working directly with the March For Our Lives teens. She will play a key role in the speaking program and has been organizing youth bands to lead the entertainment, according to a release from the sponsoring nonprofit.
According to the release, “Both groups have demonstrated their formidable strength by leading the way for commonsense gun reform following the senseless gun violence that scarred each of their towns.”
Following the Sandy Hook School mass shooting, SHP turned tragedy into transformative change by creating and rolling out programs that train youth and adults how to identify, assess, and get help for at-risk individuals before violence happens.
To date, the organization has educated more than 3.5 million youths and adults in all 50 states with its Know the Signs Programs, averting multiple school shooting and suicide threats, reducing bullying, and getting mental health assistance for youth in need.
The March For Our Lives Road to Change Tour kicked off in Chicago, Ill. on Friday, June 15, and has traveled to more than 50 cities in more than 20 states, including Iowa, Texas, California, Florida, South Carolina, and Connecticut.
The tour traveled to places where the NRA has strongholds, as well as a number of communities that have been affected by gun violence where they met fellow survivors. At each stop, the MFOL activists registered young people to vote in advance of the upcoming mid-term elections.
Newtown Police public information representative Lieutenant Aaron Bahamonde told The Newtown Bee on August 8 that due to the nature of the event, appropriate law enforcement presence will be evident on the campus, including a number of uniformed local officers and supervisors.
Lt Bahamonde is encouraging attendees who are there to support the tour participants to not be baited, distracted, antagonized, or alarmed if they come in contact with or observe counter-protesters.
He said attendees should plan to arrive and park at either Newtown High School or Reed Intermediate School, and then use shuttle buses that will be running between those lots and the event site. There will be little or no parking on or near the event site for general attendees; however, handicapped parking will be available.
Other areas around the site could be subject to temporary road closures and the possibility of heavy traffic near the beginning and end of the event could create backups in the area of Wasserman Way adjacent to the campus.
Lt Bahamonde said attendees are likely encounter counter-protesters who are exercising their constitutional right and representing the open carry movement by displaying firearms in some way. He said it is their right to do so in a public area, and local officers will be monitoring activities and may request certain individuals to move to a specified area of the event to ensure the safety of all participants and to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in attendance.
Police also expect a contingent of “counter-protesters trying to troll attendees into reacting to signs and placards in order to create YouTube videos.”
He advises the best way to prevent these individuals from exploiting the emotional reactions of passersby is to ignore them, whether they are on the fringe of the crowd or walking among supporters of the Road to Change participants.
He has heard reports that these individuals have displayed signage that pose messages like “No pineapples on pizza,” to elicit confused reactions or questions from passersby that are filmed and edited in an attempt to entertain or embarrass those who are tricked into responding.
But in at least one case, he heard reports of these video camera toting protesters creating signs that read “Rapists for Gun Control,” which he believes could raise the ire of some who encounter them, making for provocative video content and possible heated confrontations.
“If people don’t react to these individuals and just ignore them, they won’t end up having anything to video,” he said.
Registration is requested to attend the Newtown end-of-tour event. Visit actionnetwork.org/events/road-to-change-newtown-community-event or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the cause can be found at marchforourlives.com.