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A gun violence protestor takes a stand near a Kalamazoo cemetery

A man in jeans and a ball cap stands by a busy street with a handmade sign that says "honk to end gun violence." A white van is passing by.
Leona Larson
Rory Gogerty protested on Westnedge Ave in Kalamazoo on June 8. His one-man demonstration to end gun violence was in response to a weekend of more than a dozen mass shootings across the country.

Rory Gogerty of Kalamazoo said he hadn't planned to spend his day standing by Westnedge Avenue with a handmade sign. But after catching up on the news, he felt "called to action."

Rory Gogerty, 40, held a white board in the drizzling rain as he stood in front of Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park South on Westnedge Avenue Wednesday. The words on his sign were to the point: “honk to end gun violence!” Every time a passing motorist honked, Gogerty nodded in acknowledgement.

Gogerty said when he woke up, he had no idea this was how he'd spend his day. In the morning he shared a final breakfast with his mother before she wrapped up a visit from Florida.

“When I got back home, I took a shower and caught up on my news and that’s when I felt the call to action.”

Gogerty said he isn't new to action. The metal fabricator said he once worked as a campaign coordinator for Greenpeace in California.

“I’m sick to death of these gun deaths,” said Gogerty. “I saw on the news earlier that we had a lot of mass shootings — and a lot of just-under-mass shootings — all this last weekend. And I heard Matthew McConaughey’s compassionate speech at the White House press office this morning too, and I just got fired up.”

Another violent weekend in the United States left at least 82 people killed or wounded according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive. As of Wednesday, the organization had reported 251 mass shootings for the year. Three of last weekend’s mass shootings that killed or injured four or more people happened in Michigan.

Gogerty, who lives off Westnedge, made his sign, walked out the door and headed for one of Kalamazoo’s busiest streets with one goal: tell drivers that something must be done to curb gun violence. Gogerty said the cemetery was an appropriate backdrop for his one-man demonstration.

According to Gogerty, his spontaneous demonstration even sparked a counter-protest — when a man came out of a nearby pawn shop, carrying a sign that suggested the Biden administration was trying to take away Americans' guns. (President Biden has called for certain restrictions on firearms, but nothing close to a general ban on guns.) Gogerty said the man showed him his own gun. He said after they talked for a few minutes, the man left.

Gogerty said it’s "entirely possible" that he'll be back tomorrow, "rain or shine."