Connecticut School Shooting

At the White House, Protesters Urge Obama to Act on Rising Gun Violence

Hours after Connecticut’s school massacre, protesters were dismayed by official efforts to not discuss the political aftermath of the killings—and increasingly impatient on action.

12.15.12 1:01 AM ET

More than 100 people gathered at a rally outside the White House Friday evening to pray and condemn the violence that took more than 20 lives at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier in the day.

Organized by members of multiple gun-violence prevention groups, the rally and its speakers focused on demands for stricter gun laws and swift congressional action.

“The politics is not difficult,” said Andy Pelosi, one of the rally organizers, on a loudspeaker in remarks directed at the president. “This is your opportunity to lead us on the path to reduce gun violence.”

“No children, no teacher, no staff should have to worry about sending their children to schools in the morning to be gunned down,” he told the crowd.

Pelosi (no relation to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) works with the organization Gun Free Kids and was one of the many rally participants who happened to be in D.C. today for a training session for groups focusing on gun-violence prevention.

When news of the Sandy Hook shooting spread this morning, many of the attending members collectively organized a rally in order to spread gun-violence awareness.

“What I want is the president to sit down with members of Congress and say we are losing 86 people a day, these horrific shootings are happening way too often, [and ask] what are we going to do about our laws?” Pelosi told reporters. “That’s why we are saying start that dialogue. Today is the day.”

Many rally attendants said they were discouraged by the false hope offered by President Obama on changing gun laws.

“People who live up there in that big White House don’t seem to have the will to stop this, and for a survivor, there is nothing worse than hearing ‘Well, today is not the day to talk about it,’” said Toby Hoover, a rally organizer and director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.”

Hoover, whose husband was killed in a robbery 40 years ago, says she understands the plight of the family members who lost a loved one today, but that inaction is not the cure.

“We’ve had enough breathing time, people can take care of these families and embrace them and support them for a long, long time, and they need to do that. But while they are doing that we need to be doing something else, so that another kindergarten class isn’t killed,” she says.

Julie Henson of San Francisco joins other people outside the White House to participate in a candle light vigil to remember the victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong/Getty

Julie Henson of San Francisco joins other people outside the White House to participate in a candle light vigil to remember the victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the speeches, two prayers were held at the rally.

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Michael McBride, a pastor from California, led his vigil by “calling for prayer, compassion, and action.”

Onlookers held candles provided by the rally organizers as many sang hymns and chanted “Today Is the Day,” which was also a hash tag visible on many rally posters.

“I think our conversation on gun control is really broken and is really determined by the NRA and only the NRA in a way that is not appropriate to our democracy,” said Jill Raney, a protester at the rally.

“Didn’t this already happen four times this year? If we aren’t going to do this now, are we going to wait till an appropriate period after the next time or the next one?”

One woman attending the event was an employee of the Brady Center, a national organization against gun violence whose website crashed today in response to unusually high traffic.

“I took a women’s donation who called in, and she had just been crying and didn’t know what to do,” said Arin Brenner. “So I think people just feel helpless and they were looking for something positive to do, because it’s just so hard to sit there and do nothing.”

Doing nothing is exactly what the protesters said they are fighting against.

“You learn to live with [the pain] but it doesn’t go away,” Hoover said. “So you have to try to make it a better world somehow.”