By Daedalus Howell
WASHINGTON — In scenes reminiscent of the Free Speech and Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s, thousands across the nation rallied in the March for Our Lives protest to advocate for gun control on Saturday, March 25. The nation’s capital was the locus of much of the protestor’s energy with more than 800 sibling events simultaneously organized throughout the country. The protests were spurred by fury over shootings that have occurred at schools and deadly police encounters, which have received escalating awareness over the past decade — and have changed school security and design as we know it.
Survivors of the recent shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that resulted in the deaths of 17 students and staffers in Florida, spearheaded the march, which was preceded by the mass National Student Walkout the prior week.
Parkland survivor 18-year-old Emma González, who has emerged as one of the many impassioned voices of the movement.
“Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead, we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” González decried in what many observed was a historic speech.
After naming the victims of the Parkland massacre, González held a prolonged moment of silence as onlookers chanted “Never again!” Tears streamed down her face. Suffice it to say, her silence spoke volumes. Some participants began to worry that González would not be able to continue — an organizer even gently approached her to check in. Then a timer beeped and González spoke again: “Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle,” she said, recounting the events of the shooting. Many in the media remarked upon the power of González’ speech.
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) March 24, 2018
According to the Washington Post, protestors began rallying along Pennsylvania Avenue at noon, coalescing into a legion of about half a million people by some estimates. Closer to the offices of School Construction News, an estimated 2,000 people filled the Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, Calif., sporting signs that said “Protect Kids, Not the NRA,” “Books, Not bullets” and “Give Teachers Raises, Not Guns,” according to the Press Democrat.
In contrast, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been under scrutiny for its pro-gun lobbying efforts, countered on its Facebook page that “Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”
The official March for Our Lives website, however, states that the movement supports the Second Amendment:
“We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution. But with that right comes responsibility,” the site reads. “We call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us, to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.”