See video from last night’s ‘lie-in’
To commemorate the 6-month anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings and protest what they see as lax gun laws, a group of 32 demonstrators gathered on the South Lawn at the University of Virginia last night. The number of participants represents both the victims killed that day and the daily number of lives taken by guns in the U.S.
As the protesters moved to the ground one by one, dressed in black and wearing ribbons bearing the Tech colors, they made a poignant display of the unity that can come even in the wake of tragedy. The last representative to lie down was Randa Samaha, the sister of one of the 32 victims.
"I am here in honor of my sister Reema," she said. "Federal governments need to be proactive in limiting gun permits."
Andy Goddard spoke on behalf of his son who was shot four times in the incident but survived. He praised those who attended the Tuesday, October 16th demonstration.
"I want to speak to the reasonable and law-abiding gun owner and urge them to go through the checks system by providing a medical and mental history," said Goddard who ended on an urgent note.
"Become advocates. Write to your senator for safer gun laws before something happens to you or your family that forces you to take a stand."
The last demonstrator to speak was Abigail Spangler, the founder of www.protesteasyguns.com. She began the 32-person "lie down" movement by e-mailing friends and staging a protest at the City Hall in Alexandria, Virginia immediately following the April 16 massacre.
"After the first protest in Alexandria, Virginia I thought that if 80 percent of Americans want tighter gun laws, then why isn't this reflected in legislation?" Spangler asked. "Then I realized that maybe people just don't know how to get involved."
So far, there have been 30 demonstrations across 12 states. The UVA lie-in joined Carleton College, site of a student demonstration earlier that day, as the first college locations for the lie-ins. More are scheduled in coming months.
Organizers noted how easy it was to mobilize forces. A protest in New York City's Times square attracted the attention– and attendance– of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"We got together on a Friday, and I said I want to stage a demonstration in Times Square. The following Thursday we went," Spangler recalls.
Dillon Hauptfuhrer, the head organizer of the UVA protest, also found very little red tape when planning the protest. She got 32 people to commit under 2 weeks, and received an immediate response from the Dean and event planner on how to coordinate the event. "I was worried about finding numbers, or getting permission to do the protest - but it has really moved me how willing people were to help," Hauptfuhrer said.
The immediate goal of Spangler's group, www.protesteasyguns.com, is to close the gun show loop hole in Virginia, which allows people to buy guns with no background checks. The group is also seeking to ban high-capacity ammunition cartridges such as the one that the assailant used in the Virginia Tech shootings.
Spangler has recently been awarded Redbook Magazine's "Strength and Spirit Award" for her work. In her closing remarks before lying down to symbolize one of the 32 victims, she declared, "Today we lie down in protest to secure a better future for our children, our police, and our fellow americans."