Richard Martinez, whose only son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez of Los Osos, was one of six UC Santa Barbara students brutally murdered in Isla Vista on Friday, stood before a crowd of more than 18,000 people Tuesday and pleaded for change.
“How many other people are going to have to die in this situation before something is done?” Martinez asked. “Life doesn’t have to be like this. It is just intolerable.”
The grieving father’s strength emanated beyond his words and into the packed Harder Stadium, where students, community members, faculty and the families of the victims gathered to mourn and find solace at a memorial at UC Santa Barbara.
The university had canceled classes, declaring a Day of Mourning and Reflection.
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The hourlong program drew speakers including UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang and Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California. On the stage, six large wreaths, one for each of the victims, were adorned with flowers.
The crowd shimmered with the university’s colors, blue and gold, as students sat close together, nearly silent as Martinez took the stage.
His son, a 20-year-old sophomore studying English at UC Santa Barbara, was the last victim in a stabbing and shooting spree Friday that left six UC Santa Barbara students dead. Suspect Elliot Rodger, 22, also died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
“Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez. Some of you here today knew and loved him,” Martinez said. “For that, we — his family — are grateful.”
Martinez, whose passionate cry for help in ending gun violence has gained national attention, urged the crowd to join him in his fight — leading them in a thundering chant of, “Not one more!”
“If it’s not loud enough, I’m going to raise my hand back up in the air again,” he told the crowd. “When we do this, I want it to be so loud that they can hear it in Washington, D.C.”
By the third time, the crowd was on its feet, shouting the mantra so loud that it echoed through the small coastal community that has been riveted with grief since Friday.
Martinez has pledged not to stop his campaign until change is born.
“Just yesterday, I got a phone call from a congressperson to express their condolences,” Martinez told the crowd. “I told that person I wasn’t interested in a phone call from them to express their condolences and sadness about what happened to Chris. That was unacceptable until that person went back to Congress and actually did something. They have done nothing, and that’s why Chris died.”
Martinez said he has been trying to think of some concrete task that those who wanted to help could embark on. He asked that they send postcards to politicians with those three simple words: “Not one more.”
He acknowledged that his thoughts on gun control were not shared by all of the victims’ families.
Martinez, who was the only parent to speak Tuesday, also read brief statements from two of the other victims’ families.
“Son, we want you to take all of our blessings with you and bless all the victims and their families including the killer. Let hatred be gone with the wind,” from the parents of James Hong, a computer engineering student who was killed in Rodger’s apartment before the killing spree spread to downtown Isla Vista.
Another statement, from the family of victim David Wang, also a computer engineering major, read, “It’s time to stop the gun violence … our children deserve a land free from fear.”
When Martinez walked away from the lectern, the stadium’s crowd rose to support him, their voices beginning to chant, “Not one more! Not one more! Not one more!”
Nearby, in downtown Isla Vista, three memorials, all within a short distance of each other and where the violence erupted just nights before, demonstrated the unwavering solidarity of the community now banded together in grief.
Where a bullet hole ripped through a deli window and killed Michaels-Martinez, orange, yellow and red flowers now protrude.
On the sidewalk in front of the store, a silent crowd continued to gather throughout most of the day, paying homage and leaving behind candles, flowers and thoughts written in sidewalk chalk on the pavement.
A memorial wall, erected across the street, displayed the names of each of the six victims. Below each name were personal messages, with other comments showing the community’s solidarity, such as, “We are not defined by hate.”
Below Michaels-Martinez’s name, a message read, “I’m so sorry you were there. I did everything I could possibly do for you. I will never forget.”