An up-close look at the student-led protest for gun control and school safety.
After the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14, 2018, student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School banded together to form one of the strongest movements for gun control our country has ever seen. The students behind the movement, “Never Again” initiated a march in order to peacefully protest for stronger gun control legislation in the U.S. and an increase in school security around the country. Of the 580 worldwide March for Our Lives marches, the location of the most recognized march— Washington D.C.— is relatively close to Broadneck high school.
The bright and blustery streets of downtown D.C. were alive and filled to the brim with families, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances expressing their concern for student safety at school. Marchers’ ages ranged from infants to the elderly. Brilliant, comical, and heartbreaking signs waved in the air, communicating messages such as, “Arms are for hugging,” “Don’t give my teacher a gun; she hates me!” and “Am I next?” Despite hundreds of different signs, demographics and expressed messages, the protestors pressed for something they all believed in— the safety of themselves, their friends, their children and even their grandchildren at school.
The event was large enough to attract performances from celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt, as well as the marching of celebrities Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Jimmy Fallon, Julianne Moore and Steven Spielberg, among others. “This song has never felt more special,” Cyrus spoke of her hit song “The Climb,” she performed, adding, “I just find myself lucky to be in the presence of all of you wonderful people fighting for what is right.”
Several guest speakers also appeared onstage to give chilling and heartwarming speeches before the crowd, including that of Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting and student activist behind “Never Again.” Gonzalez opened her speech noting that all seventeen victims at her school were killed in six minutes and twenty seconds, and explained that these victims would never do everyday activities again. “Six minutes and twenty seconds with an AR-15, and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice… Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp… Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan.” She then remained silent for four minutes and twenty-five seconds, shedding tears and staring straight ahead in one of the most powerful demonstrations at the march. While many believed her silence to be held for six minutes and twenty seconds, this was actually the total time she had stood on stage since coming out. “Since I have been out here,” she said, breaking the silence, “it has been six minutes and twenty seconds.”
Another guest speaker astounded the audience with her age and ancestry. As a young girl walked smiling onstage, she announced “My name is Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King.” The nine year-old then proceeded to echo her grandfather’s most famous speech in her own: “I have a dream that enough is enough… and that this should be a gun-free world— period.” An additional young speaker, seventeen year old Edna Chavez, gave the “Never Again” movement relevance for her hometown: “I have lived in South LA my entire life, and have lost many loved ones to gun violence. This is normal— normal to a point that I have learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read.”
A group of student protesters revealed why they came to march in D.C., explaining, “I came out today because I want to feel safe in my school,” and “I came because I don’t want to be silenced by adults and politicians; I want to make a change, and I want my little brother to be safe.” A student in the group explained that this issue is important to her because “it shouldn’t be easy for people to get something having the power to end someone’s life.” Another student said that the march was doing more than just spreading awareness and voicing opinions about the issue: “People at the march were registering to vote, so they will hopefully vote people out of office” who prevent the passage of gun control legislation. The march appeared to move every attendee; one explaining that she was most moved by the “wide range of ages… showing that it’s not just a problem for schools; it’s a problem for everyone.” Another described the power of the victims’ speeches: “Having speakers that had actually experienced gun violence was very powerful.”
The issue of gun violence in schools following the Parkland, Florida school shooting is one that has overreached party lines, ideologies, and demographics. March For Our Lives has proven not only the power of people when they want change, but the power of students when they want change.