Thousands join Parkland survivors to call for gun reform in Washington
By Olivia Vermane, Staff Writer
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Emma Gonzalez was one of many student speakers who survived the Feb. 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla. who took the stage on Saturday, March 24, at the March for Our Lives gun reform protest in Washington, D.C.
After listing the names of the 17 students lost in the Parkland shooting, Gonzalez stood quietly for several minutes. With tears streaming down her face, she stared into the crowd of roughly 800,000 protesters.
“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds,” said Gonzalez, finally ending her moment of silence. “The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest.”
In the days and weeks since the mass shooting in Parkland, students across the country have shaken the country in a grassroots mass movement against gun violence, making it clear to lawmakers that “enough is enough.”
Students from Parkland organized the March for Our Lives in roughly one month as part of a grassroots movement for gun reform. With few speakers old enough to vote, they addressed the crowd with stories of their own experiences with gun violence, and the need for changes in America’s gun laws.
“Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job,” said Gonzalez.
Yolanda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s nine-year-old granddaughter made an appearance as well. “I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world. Period.”
Speakers who faced gun violence in other areas around the country were given a platform too. Edna Chavez is a teenager from South Central Los Angeles who lost her brother in 2007. She said she learned how to duck bullets before learning how to read.
11-year-old Naomi Wadler, from Alexandria, Va. spoke on the stage “to represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.”
Celebrity activists and famous musicians also took to the stage at the march in support of gun control, including Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus, and Broadway stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. Students from the Stoneman Douglas Drama Club performed “Shine,” an original piece written in honor of those lost in the tragedy.
Mason students also attended the protest to highlight the urgency of facing gun violence in the U.S.
“As someone who cares deeply about political issues, I find a lot of importance in participating in marches such as the March for Our Lives,” said Amanda Attiya, a fellow at the Mason chapter of NextGen America, a progressive nonprofit organization registering young people to vote.
Attiya said that gun control is a bipartisan issue not centered around a political party, but about the safety of others and students’ ability to attend school without fear.
“What I found most striking about this rally was that it wasn’t founded on party affiliation, but rather about making change to save our lives, and that’s why I came today,” said Attiya, holding her sign that read, “Bullets are not school supplies.”
“The issue of gun reform shouldn’t be partisan,” agreed senior Evan Baines, the equal justice policy head of Roosevelt@Mason, a progressive student policy organization.
Baines and other students from Mason also took to the streets in support of the march, and to speak out against gun violence following the on-campus rally on Friday, March 23.
“I marched today for myself, for my brothers, and for my future children,” said Baines. “The students of Parkland are finally going to bring about meaningful change, and I wanted to be there to help them.”
Similar March for Our Lives protests took place throughout the country, including Los Angeles and New York City, as students and people across the nation joined in sending a message to lawmakers calling for gun reform. According to the Washington Post, protesters also gathered outside city hall in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed 58 people at a 2017 country music festival.
In Washington, protesters crowded the streets for hours holding homemade signs with slogans from the Parkland students, such as “Enough is Enough,” and “Vote them out!” Many took to street corners with clipboards and pens, seeking to register voters.
“We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into, and create a better world for the generations to come,” said Cameron Kasky, one of the event’s first speakers and another survivor of the Parkland shooting. “Welcome to the revolution.”
Photos by Angelique Arintok