Students hold March For Our Lives rallies across America
WASHINGTON – Survivors of the deadly shooting rampage at a Parkland, Florida, high school are set to lead thousands Saturday in a March for Our Lives on Washington, delivering their impassioned pleas for stricter gun control law to the nation.
Building on the momentum of last week’s National School Walkout, these members of a generation raised on gun violence have been rallying Americans around their cause while honoring the 17 students and faculty members killed on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The march starts at noon, with participants gathering on Pennsylvania Avenue near the US Capitol. As they began showing up Saturday morning, the turnout seemed to portend a massive standing-room-only rally.
Hundreds of sister marches also are planned across the country and around the world.
On a bus with about 250 students bound for Washington from Pittsburgh, chaperone Justin Cooper said he grew up in a region known for hunting but realizes America’s gun culture needs to change.
“Our youth are being confronted with these shootings and all the violence, and I think they’re looking at it and saying most people support some kind of change … but yet our laws don’t quite seems to be working with the people,” Cooper said. “So the youth of this country said, ‘Enough is enough.’ The kids are running all this.”
One march will be in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where 20 years ago Saturday two boys, 11 and 13, ambushed fellow students and teachers in a yard after setting off a fire alarm at Westside Middle School, killing five people.
February’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas, then the eighth school shooting of the year, moved the young survivors-turned-activists to push lawmakers to address gun violence in American schools with comprehensive gun control legislation, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“They don’t know what it’s like to be 20 feet from an AR-15,” Parkland survivor Alfonso Calderon, 16, told students at a Washington charter school this week, referring to US lawmakers.
Calderon and other Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors attended a #NeverAgain — as their movement is known — rally this week at Washington’s Thurgood Marshall Academy, where two students were killed in separate neighborhood shootings during the last year.
“Every single day you wake up and it might be a thought in your head, ‘I might die today,’ ” Calderon told the students.
“I only had to go through it once. You guys go through it every single day. This isn’t a discussion anymore. This is action because that’s what we need.”
Some Parkland students also met congressional leaders this week at the US Capitol.
“No student should ever have to cover themselves with a deceased classmate to survive, but I was that student,” shooting survivor Aalayah Eastmond said.
“And we can’t only focus on school shootings though. Urban communities and low-income communities have always been hit with gun violence. I lost my uncle due to gun violence in Brooklyn 15 years ago, and nothing has changed. Columbine happened. Nothing changed. Sandy Hook happened. Nothing changed. Parkland happened. Nothing changed.”
The movement, started in the aftermath of the massacre with media appearances by student survivors such as Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez, has drawn celebrity support.
Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Common and Lin-Manuel Miranda are expected to attend the march in Washington, according to the event’s website.
And celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg each donated $500,000 last month to the march’s fund.
More than 800 other events are planned across the United States and in cities overseas Saturday, including London, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo and Seoul, according to the march website.
On April 20, activists are calling for another national school walkout on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.
“In all honesty, they do not care if we do not get out and vote,” Parkland student David Hogg said at Thurgood Marshall Academy, referring to politicians.
“If we do not stand up and make our voices heard as Americans, they will not take action.”