ANDOVER — Leah Parrott, Emily Swenson and many others are angry about the large-scale shooting rampages that have claimed so many victims in America.
The massacres in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this past weekend are only the latest episodes of mass murder of innocent people.
They are frustrated with a government that in their eyes seems to be unable or unwilling to take steps to at least reduce firearm violence.
Parrott and Swenson will soon enter their senior year at Andover High and they would like to feel safe in their school.
So they organized a vigil that called for stricter gun control, including mandatory background checks of anyone who tried to purchase a gun. The orderly demonstration at Routes 133 and 128 Thursday evening, attended by about 60 to 70 people, was also a protest against white supremacy.
Parrott and Swenson are members of the Andover chapter of March for Our Lives, an anti-gun violence group that was formed after the Feb. 14, 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and staffers were murdered.
"I think people are angry," Parrott said. "People want change."
In her remarks to the crowd, which included a wide range of ages, she decried the apathy toward gun violence.
"This should shock us," she said of the mass killings. "Why doesn't it?" She said she and other activists will step up their efforts to enact tougher gun laws.
"We will not tolerate another senseless killing," she said. "This is only the beginning."
Evie Wybenga, a 2018 Andover High School graduate, said she has struggled to find the words to express the fear and frustration that the "gun violence epidemic" has engendered. Yet she expressed hope that the nation can turn the tide against massive slaughters.
"In the face of fear and hatred, we can win," she told her fellow demonstrators.
They concluded the vigil by singing, "This Land is Your Land."
While the vigil was organized by young people, plenty of older adults attended.
Florence Feldman-Wood held a sign made by her husband, Peter Wood. One side read, Assault Weapons Produce Mass Murder. The other side bore the message, No Gun Sales without Background Checks.
State Rep. Tram Nguyen, D-Andover, said it's now up to the federal government to take stronger action on gun control.
"We have done so much in Massachusetts," she said, noting the Legislature recently passed and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a measure that prohibits people with serious mental illnesses from possessing firearms.
In 2019 alone, Nguyen said, the United States has had at least 250 mass shootings.