“My kids start school in two weeks, and I’m terrified to let them go,” said Laurie Fernandez as she stood with about 30 protesters at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on Wednesday. They had met to stand against gun violence and intolerance of immigrants following last Saturday’s shooting in El Paso in which 22 people were killed. A mother and registered nurse in Santa Barbara, Fernandez described her anxiety on Saturday: “I have family in El Paso that goes to that Walmart [shooting location] every Saturday. I could not get ahold of them for hours on end — not through texting, calling, or messaging. This is not okay, and it needs to stop.”
The attendees collectively discussed the social climate and current gun control bills while holding signs to draw in passersby. The gathering was part of MoveOn Civic Action’s nationwide event #ElPasoFirme (El Paso Strong), organized by community members Michal Lynch (leader of the S.B. Women’s March) and Tamara Roberts.
Roberts describes herself as a “retired grandmother” who is simply ready to take action: “If I have to come out here alone and [protest], I’ll do it. I’m tired of watching everybody die,” she said in an interview before the rally. This was her first, yet certainly not last, time planning a demonstration. She hopes to gather enough people next time for a full-fledged march around State Street. Lynch added, “We’re all at risk even if we’re not part of a targeted population. Anyone could end up in the middle of [a shooting], so no matter how you slice it, it’s everyone’s problem.”