On Saturday, March 24, more than a million people around the world participated in March For Our Lives protests against gun violence, mass shootings, and school shootings in the United States. The U.S. protests centered on Washington, D.C., where people called on lawmakers to pass gun control legislation. The protests were planned and led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in the Miami, Florida, suburb of Parkland, where a mass shooting killed 17 students and faculty on February 14.
MSD students and other gun crime survivors from across the country spoke to hundreds of thousands of people along Pennsylvania Avenue, with the White House and the U.S. Capitol looming in the background. The emotional speeches were punctuated with cheers, tears, and chants of “no more guns” and “no more NRA,” a reference to the powerful pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association. The NRA has been effective at persuading members of Congress to block the passage of gun control bills, arguing that such bills violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. “Vote them out!” was another protesters’ chant aimed squarely at those NRA-influenced members of Congress. Many hand-painted signs carried among the crowds read “Graduations, not funerals,” “Protect kids not guns,” and “Am I next?”
The most stirring moment came when 18-year old MSD student Emma González named her dead classmates and teachers and then paused in silence until she had used up 6 minutes and 20 seconds—the amount of time it took for the gunman to take 17 lives at her high school. Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old speaker from Virginia, declared “Never again!” on behalf of black women and girl victims of gun violence. Never Again is the name of another student-led movement pushing for tighter gun regulations. Singers Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and Lin-Manuel Miranda performed at the Washington rally, which was also attended and supported by thousands of parents and teachers as well as numerous Democratic politicians and entertainment celebrities.
“Sibling” March For Our Lives protests took place throughout the United States, with large events in such cities as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. The nationwide rallies also encouraged voter registration, particularly for students about to turn 18 and vote for the fist time. Former president Barack Obama voiced his support for the protesters and the voting drive, saying “You’re leading us forward. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.” Solidarity events also took place in such world cities as Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, and Tokyo.
Saturday’s March For Our Lives followed a 17-minute school walkout (one minute for each MSD shooting victim) that took nearly a million U.S. high school students briefly out of classes on March 14. The massacre at MSD High School was the most recent in a long line of school shootings in the United States. The worst came at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012, when 26 people were killed. Another national school walkout is planned for April 20 to commemorate the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in which 13 people died.
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Image 1: Hundreds of thousands of people crowd Washington, D.C., streets during the March For Our Lives protest against gun violence on March 24, 2018. Credit: © Nicole S. Glass, Shutterstock
Image 2: Credit: © March For Our Lives