On March 24th, over 850,000 people gathered in front of the U.S capital for the March for Our Lives, a movement against gun violence and for stronger gun laws, making this march the largest march in American history. The March for Our Lives is a movement started by the survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) high school on February 14th of this year, claiming the lives of 17 students and faculty.
In the past five weeks a group of MSD students, including Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Sarah Chadwick, and Cameron Kasky, have been the faces of the March for Our Lives movement by both confronting politicians involved with the NRA (National Rifle Association) and organizing a march on Washington in hopes of influencing politicians to create more restrictions on purchasing firearms in America. Twitter has played a large role in the movement. It started when there seemed to be an apparent pattern in the way politicians respond to school shootings. The hashtag #NeverAgain was what proved to show how monumental this issue really is and how many people were passionate about it.
After MSD senior Emma Gonzalez gave a speech before the #NeverAgain movement started, she ended the speech with the phrase, “We call BS!”, a phrase targeted towards the politicians who fail to discuss taking action against the gun issue. Her speech went viral, and soon after, she made a twitter and gained more followers than the official National Rifle Association page. This encouraged Gonzalez and the rest of the MSD students to start pushing for a larger movement. Twitter and other forms of social media have been used to spread information about events and their beliefs to capture the attention of students across the U.S.
Video from CNN
The March was the kickoff of the #NeverAgain movement; it was incredibly well organized. Security and volunteers handed out water bottles to everyone who attended, and jumbo-trons were placed all the way down Pennsylvania Ave. Protesters heard from 17 different speakers to represent the 17 students who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting.
The crowd of people who attended ranged from young elementary students there with their parents to high school and college students to senior citizens, all fiery and filled with passion and rage about the issue of gun violence.
The crowd appeared as a sea of posters and banners rather than people. Nearly every person had a homemade poster and held it high as they chanted little slogans like, “Vote them out!” referring to the elected officials in office who haven’t showed clear support for gun restrictions; “We call BS!”, in reference to Emma Gonzalez’s very first speech; and “Hey hey ho ho the NRA has got to go!” and “Hey hey NRA how many kids have you killed today!?”, both of which call out the National Rifle Association for contributing to politicians’ campaigns as a means of lobbying against gun control. I interviewed one of the people passing me in the crowd who said they own a business that was a security camera which can detect when a gun is pulled out. They say this helps her safety but still thinks they still need to do more to improve gun laws.
Among these politicians is Florida senator Marco Rubio, who has been accepting money from the National Rifle Association lobbyists and in return has discussed a few ways to prevent school shootings through “Red Flag Laws” and the “Try and Lie” bill. Rubio has yet to present anything that involves stricter gun laws or anything related to guns for that matter.
A few weeks prior the the March for Our Lives, CNN hosted a Town Hall with NRA spokeswoman Dana Leosch, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and a few of the faces of the #NeverAgain movement. Cameron Kasky, an MSD student asked Rubio if he’d ever stop taking donations from the NRA. Rubio responded with, “people buy into my agenda.”
Since Columbine there have been an estimated 208 fatal school shootings in the U.S., yet nothing has been done to prevent this issue. It has been recently uncovered that the National Rifle Association lobbyists have been paying off politicians, and in return the politicians don’t pass any laws that prevent people from purchasing firearms. In 2016 Donald Trump received $30 million from the NRA for his presidential campaign, and in response he has shown his full support and respect for the second amendment and the NRA when they say that we need to arm teachers with firearms and get rid of gun-free zones.
At the March, Sarah Chadwick, another student of MSD, walked onstage with a little orange price tag with $1.05 on it. “When you take 3,140,167 — the number of students enrolled in Florida schools — and divide by $3,303,355 — the amount of money Marco Rubio has received from the National Rifle Association, it comes out to a dollar and five cents. Is that all we’re worth to these politicians? A dollar and five cents? Was $17.85 all it cost you that day, Mr. Rubio? Well I say, one life is worth more than all the guns in America.”
Video from NBC News
The March was not organized only as a response to the Parkland shooting, however. The MSD student organizers worked with a broad group of gun control activists and victims of gun violence. “We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence,” Jaclyn Corin, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, said during her speech. “But we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun.”
One of the other speakers was Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old who organized a walkout for her elementary school. “I am here to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news” said Wadler, and she was the first of many to present an intersectional approach to gun violence.
North Lawndale Prep students and members of student-led non-violence organization the Peace Warriors in Chicago, Alex King and D’Angelo McDade, walked up onstage with colored tape over their mouths and addressed the crowd as their family. “I said family because we are here to join together in unity fighting for the same goals,” McDade explained. “I say family because of all the pain that I see in the crowd. And that pain is another reason why we are here. Our pain makes us family. Us hurting together brings us closer together to fight for something better.”
“Martin Luther King Jr once said that darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that, and hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that, which now leads me to say violence cannot drive out violence, only peace can do that; poverty cannot drive out poverty, only resources can do that; death cannot drive out death, only pro-active life can do that,” said McDade.
Video from NBC News
This piece is part of Under the Gun, a Rambler feature series on gun control & gun culture in the wake of mass shootings and the March for Our Lives. Read the other parts of the series here.