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Jewish Journal

For the Children

Celebrities and officials turn out to supportthe Million Mom March.

by Michael Aushenker

May 18, 2000 | 8:00 pm

"What do we want?" asked the speaker.
"Common sense gun laws!" came the response.
"When do we want them?"
"NOW!" roared the crowd.
Combining the high spirits of a pep rally with the solemnity of a memorial service, some 2,500 people massedSunday morning in front of the Federal Building in Westwood in support of the Million Mom March.The crowd ranged from babes in arms to 99-year-old Blanche W. Bettington, who hoisted a sign proclaiming "87 years of Activism." Sharon Davis, wife of Gov. Gray Davis, expressed one of the rally themes, saying, "It is easier to childproof a gun than to bulletproof a child." Actor Rob Reiner, reading a letter from U.S.Senator Barbara Boxer, hailed the moms marching here and across the country as "the founding mothers of a new America."

The event, organized by Women Against Gun Violence, drew strong support by synagogues and Jewish organizations from theWestside and the San Fernando Valley. Hoisting banners were delegations from The Jewish Federation, ProgressiveJewish Alliance, Temple Emanuel, Temple Isaiah, Temple Ahavat Shalom and others.In a solemn ceremony, city, county and state public officials took turns reading the names of 143 children and teenagers who were killed by guns last year in Los Angeles County. As each name was read,youngsters placed a red or white carnation in a large, heart-shaped wreath.The idea for the march in Washington and across the nation grew out of the shooting spree last Augustat the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, in which three children and two others were wounded.Their families, and other JCC members, participated in the main march in Washington, together with California's two Jewish women senators, Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.Across the street on Wilshire Boulevard, some 650 opponents of gun control held a counterdemonstration under the banner of the Second Amendment Sisters. According to the Los Angeles Times, the effort was coordinated by the local chapter of the National Rifle Association.

There was no contact between the opposing sides, separated by police cordons, but some Million Mom participants expressed resentment at SAS signs trying to link their cause to the Holocaust.One sign showed a large Star of David with the words, "Never Again"; another proclaimed, "Nazis Had Gun Control."

A second local Million Mom March, billed as the Southern California regional march, was held in downtown Los Angeles, near historic Olvera Street, and drew some 5,000 supporters.Originally, only one Los Angeles march had been planned. It split into two, with the Westside event organized mainly by Jewish women and the downtown one primarily by Latina and other minority women. Resentment was voiced by some leaders of the downtown march at what they viewed as the "elitist" Westside organizers and their separate event. However, groups of Westsideand San Fernando Valley women joined the afternoon downtown march, while some downtown marchers participatedin the morning Westside event. Other California Million Mom Marches were held in San Diego, Oakland, Sacramento and Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.

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