Students Lead Huge Rallies for Gun Control Across the U.S.

Michael D.Shear, New York Times, March 24, 2018

before vast crowds from Washington to Los Angeles to Parkland, Fla., the
speakers — nearly all of them students, some still in elementary school —
delivered an anguished and defiant message: They are “done hiding” from gun
violence, and will “stop at nothing” to get politicians to finally prevent it.
Wadler, 11, captivated her audience as she declared “Never again!”
on behalf of
black women and girls who have been the victims of gun violence.
Credit Andrew
Harnik/Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The students, as they seized the nation’s attention on Saturday with raised
fists and tear-streaked faces, vowed that their grief about school shootings
and their frustration with adults’ inaction would power a new generation of
political activism.

“If they
continue to ignore us, to only pretend to listen, then we will take action
where it counts,” Delaney Tarr, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
School in Parkland, where a gunman
killed 17 people last month
, told tens of thousands rallying in
Washington. “We will take action every day in every way until they simply
cannot ignore us any more.”
For many
of the young people, the Washington rally, called March for Our Lives, was
their first act of protest and the beginning of a political awakening. But that
awakening may be a rude one — lawmakers in Congress have largely disregarded
their pleas for
action on television
and social media
in the five weeks since the Parkland shooting.
reality helped drive the Parkland survivors in Washington, as they led a crowd
that filled blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol
Hill. Thousands more rallied at about 800 “sibling” marches around the country
and abroad, where students, like those in the capital, made eloquent calls for
gun control and pledged to exercise their newfound political power in the
midterm elections this fall.
video captured seas of people — in front of Trump International Hotel in New
York; in a central square in Tokyo; along the streets of Boston; at a rally in
downtown Fort Worth, Tex.; and crammed into a park less than a mile from
Stoneman Douglas High.
in soaring speeches, emotional chants and hand-painted signs, the protesters’
messages offered angry rebukes to the National Rifle Association and
politicians who have left gun laws largely intact for decades. A sign in
Washington declared “Graduations, not funerals!” while another in New York said
“I should be learning, not protesting.” Crowds in Chicago chanted “Fear has no
place in our schools” as they marched.
including Lin-Manuel Miranda, the “Hamilton” star, and the pop singers Ariana
Grande and Miley Cyrus, performed in Washington, where politicians and adult
activists were largely sidelined in favor of the fresh-faced students offering
stories of fear and frustration, but also hope for change.
The most
powerful, and impassioned, moments came from the surviving students of the
Parkland shooting, who declared themselves angry, impatient and determined to
stop the slaughter.
we march,” Ms. Tarr said. “We fight. We roar. We prepare our signs. We raise
them high. We know what we want, we know how to get it and we are not waiting
any more.”

11-year-old girl from Virginia, Naomi Wadler, captivated her audience as she
declared “Never again!” on behalf of black women and girls who have been the
victims of gun violence.
like Naomi’s stood in stark contrast to action on Capitol Hill and at the White
House in the hours before the rallies. President Trump signed a $1.3
trillion spending bill
that took no significant new steps on gun
control: It did nothing to expand background checks, impose additional limits
on assault weapons, require a higher age for rifle purchases or curb the sale
of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
spending legislation, which was viewed as the last opportunity this year for
Congress to enact major new gun restrictions before the midterm elections in
November, included only some school safety measures and modest improvements to
the background check system.
at national gun control groups, who provided logistical support and public
relations advice as the students planned the Washington rally, said they
believed that the students would not become disillusioned by the lack of
immediate action in Congress. They noted that rallies took place in 390 of the
country’s 435 congressional districts.
“The mass shooting
is nearing voting age,” said John Feinblatt, the
president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a national group that advocates tougher
gun laws. “They know the midterms are six months away, and they plan to make
sure that they vote and they get others to register to vote. They are
absolutely poised to turn this moment into a movement.”
rights organizations largely stayed silent on Saturday, following vigorous
efforts since the Parkland shooting to squash any movement toward significant
gun control legislation. A spokesman for the N.R.A. declined repeated requests
for comment.
On the
eve of the march, Colion Noir, a host on NRATV, an online video channel
produced by the gun group, lashed out
at the Parkland students, saying that “no one would know your names” if someone
with a weapon had stopped the gunman at their school.
kids ought to be marching against their own hypocritical belief structures,” he
said in the video, adding: “The only reason we’ve ever heard of them is because
the guns didn’t come soon enough.”
counterprotests took place in a few cities. In Salt Lake City, several hundred
people gathered near a high school, some carrying signs with messages like
“AR-15’s EMPOWER the people.” Brandon McKee, who wore a pistol on his belt,
brought his daughter, Kendall, 11, who held a sign that said “Criminals love
gun control.”
believe it’s their goal to unarm America, and that’s why we’re here today,” Mr.
McKee said of the Washington marchers. In Boston, about 20 protesters favoring
gun control confronted a small clutch of Second Amendment supporters in front
of the State House. The two sides quickly got into a shouting match.
pro-gun protests were swamped in size and enthusiasm by those marching for gun
control, many of whom traveled for many hours to attend the rallies in cities
across the country. Sebastian Jennings, 18, said he spent 36 hours taking a bus
to Washington from western Arkansas. Tour buses lined the streets.
was tight in Washington, where military trucks and guards blocked almost every
intersection near the rally amid a huge police presence, and in other cities
where marches and rallies forced the closing of major roads.
In towns
like Dahlonega, Ga., smaller rallies sought to demonstrate a desire for new gun
restrictions even in rural, Republican-leaning communities where gun ownership
is common and support for the Second Amendment is strong.
going to be the generation that takes down the gun lobby,” Marisa Pyle, 20,
said through a red megaphone to a group of several hundred people gathered in
front of the Dahlonega Gold Museum.
the world, Americans living abroad gathered to honor those who have died in
school shootings and to echo the call for gun control.
in Rome jammed the sidewalk across from the American Embassy, next to the
upscale Via Veneto, raising their voice in chants — “Hey hey, ho ho, the N.R.A.
has got to go,” and waving signs with messages like “A gun is not fun” and “Am
I next?” many made by high school students at an international school.
About 150
to 200 people in Berlin gathered in solidarity in front of the Brandenburg
Gate, just steps from the American Embassy. Many carried hand-painted signs,
among them: “Arms should be for hugging,” “Bullets aren’t school supplies” and
“Waffeln statt Waffen” (Waffles instead of weapons).
One of
the largest rallies outside Washington was at a Florida park not far from
Stoneman Douglas High School. During that event, 17 students from the school
silently took the stage to represent their friends who had been killed.
Montalto, the brother of Gina Rose Montalto, one of those killed, held a sign
that said: “My sister could not make it here today. I’m here for her.”
this moment into a movement,” Sari Kaufman, a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas,
implored the sea of students, parents and teachers. She urged her classmates to
vote out of office politicians who receive money from the N.R.A. “They think
we’re all talk and no action.”
Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets in Washington
and cities across the globe to take a stance against gun violence.

TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date March 24, 2018. Photo by Erin Schaff for The New
York Times.

But the
largest rally, by far, was in Washington, where stage risers and giant
television monitors were set up in the shadow of the Capitol — the focus of
much of the anger from students throughout the day.
protester carried a sign that said “If the opposite of pro is con, then the
opposite of progress is Congress.”
Republican and Democratic members of Congress had already left the city to
return to their home districts for spring break. Mr. Trump spent Saturday
afternoon in Florida, at the Trump International Golf Club, less than an hour
north of Parkland. A White House spokeswoman said in a statement, “We applaud
the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights
officials had prepared for the biggest march since about a half-million women
gathered on the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, declaring a new political
movement aimed at resisting the president and his policies.
Saturday, officials with Metro, the region’s subway system, said more than
207,000 rides had been taken on the system by 1 p.m., about half of the number
by that time during the Women’s March.
A team of
crowd science researchers led by G. Keith Still of Manchester Metropolitan
University in England estimated that about 180,000 people attended the rally.
They examined photographs, video and satellite imagery to estimate the crowd
density in different areas of the demonstration. The number is less than half
of the 470,000 that Dr. Still estimated had attended the Women’s March in
Washington in 2017.
Even so,
the streets of Washington were packed on Saturday. Teenagers climbed on each
other’s shoulders to reach the bare limbs of trees, where they climbed higher.
And each student who spoke drew a cheer that matched, and even eclipsed, the
applause given to the musical performers.
Chavez, 17, a high school senior from Los Angeles, said she had lost her
brother to gun violence: “He was in high school when he passed away. It was a
day like any other day. Sunset down on South Central. You hear pops, thinking
they’re fireworks.”
was his name. Can you all say it with me?” she asked. The crowd said his name
over and over again, as Ms. Chavez smiled through tears.
Wadler, the 11-year-old student, introduced herself with a soft “hi” and said
she represented the black women who have been victims of gun violence.
have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own,” she said.
“People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true. My
friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school,
but we know.”
added, “And we know that we have seven short years until we, too, have the
right to vote.”