By J.D. Capelouto GLOBE CORRESPONDENT AUGUST 23, 2018
WORCESTER — Dozens of national gun control advocates, including a survivor of this year’s Florida school shooting, joined local student activists in Worcester on Thursday morning to kick off a 50-mile march to demand stricter gun-control laws.
The group plans to end the march Sunday at the headquarters of firearm maker Smith & Wesson. Activists say they will criticize the company for its role in producing and selling weapons used in many mass shootings.
David Hogg, who vaulted to the national spotlight after surviving the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack in February, joined the group at a pre-march rally outside Worcester City Hall and is taking part in the march. He was joined by Manuel Oliver, a parent of one of the Parkland shooting victims, US Representative Jim McGovern, and young gun-reform leaders from Massachusetts.
“I’m here to support them. . . . I showed up and said, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” said Hogg, a public face for youths pressing for gun-law reforms.
As the march got under way, the marchers chanted: “Parkland, my friend, you will not walk alone.” Some participants held signs, including one that read “remember in November.’’
Oliver is marching to Smith & Wesson wearing the shoes of his son Joaquin, a Parkland victim.
The students are calling on Smith & Wesson to stop manufacturing and distributing all weapons outlawed under the 2004 Massachusetts assault weapons ban, and to donate $5 million to research about violence caused by their weapons.
“If we don’t think a weapon is safe to be in our state, why are we OK sending it to other states?” Jack Torres, a rising junior at Somerville High School and a March for Our Lives Boston organizer, said before the march.
Torres said one of the goals of the rally and march will be youth engagement.
“Part of this march is trying to break that mold, and show that this is a new era where the young people care, the young people are invested, and that we’re gonna stand up and fight for what we believe is right,” Torres said.
The event is co-organized by 50 Miles More, March for Our Lives, and Stop Handgun Violence.
One of the student organizers, Vikiana Petit-Homme, said Thursday she is proud to take part.
“I’m just further convinced that change will happen,” said Petit-Homme, a rising senior at Boston Latin Academy.