Demand for gun control triggers global #MarchforourLives protests


WikiTribune is covering #Marchforourlives, a global movement demanding greater gun control in the United States. The event comes after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year. Community members are on the ground in Washington D.C. as well as New York, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, and London. 

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Banning the sale of assault weapons of the type that were used in several mass shootings including Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was a common message of the protests. While cities such as New York City (CBS NY Local) and Washington D.C. (WUSA9) already prohibit the sale of the AR-15 and similar weapons, the gun is still available in the majority of states.

Seven states and the District of Columbia ban the sale of assault weapons according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Most activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, like Emma Gonzales, advocate for a federal ban on the military-grade weapon (New York Times). 

New York

Roughly 175,000 protesters flooded the streets of Manhattan in solidarity with the rally in Washington D.C., according to Mayor Bill de Blasio in a tweet after the event. Almost an hour after the first group of marchers finished at 45th Street and Sixth Avenue, the tail end of the protest was just passing the stage on 62nd Street and Central Park West, where the protest began.

Alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas protested in the NYC march. Photo by Jessica Brockington for WikiTribune

The NYC event followed the mission of the main DC march in their demand for federal laws that strengthen background checks, close gun show loopholes, limit high capacity magazines, and implement an assault weapons ban, according to Alex Clavering, one of the NYC event’s organizers.

They also want to see the passage of the Extreme Risk Protective Order (Senate Bill 7133 and Assembly Bill 8976), legislation that “allows family members, household members, or the police to petition a court to prevent an individual who is a danger to either themselves or others from purchasing guns and it can also allow the police to detain their guns for a period of time,” Clavering told WikiTribune in an email before the event.

 

Photo of banner, politicians and children at the front of the NYC March for Our Lives.
Politicians showed up for the event, but none were offered an opportunity to speak, according to the march’s NYC organizer, Alex Clavering. Here NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter-NY, and Mayor Bill de Blasio join children at the front of the march. Photo by Jessica Brockington for WikiTribune

Clavering is a first year Columbia Law student who started the Facebook group around that quickly swelled into something that required massive fundraising and the counsel of veteran activists.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was not the only American shooting represented in the NYC rally. The color orange was worn by many after Nza-Ari Khepra founded of Project Orange Tree to commemorate her best friend, Hadiya Pendleton, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago in 2013 (New York Times). 

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Chicago

Early Saturday morning, final preparations underway at Union Park, Chicago. Photo by R Kevin Cook.

Union Park: By 8:30 a.m., the sidewalks were lined with news outlets. Press passes were handed out and several dozen networks, reporters, and other outlets were assembling in the press riser to the front and center of the main stage.

A few hours (and dubious coffees in styrofoam cups) later, the people of Chicago and surrounding suburbs were streaming into Union Park, located in the near west side of downtown Chicago. Despite the weather being just above 32 degrees and the wind gusting, by 11 a.m. Union Park was full.

The crowd was loud, enthusiastic, and numbered in the thousands, estimated in the 7,000 to 10,000 range. The student speakers were focused and passionate. They each engaged the crowd with rap and poetry and pleas to keep protesting, keep working to end gun violence, and to start voting. Chicago is a city where gun violence is a fact of life for many youth and adults.

Thousands gathered in Union Park, Chicago to support Parkland, FL and local students affected every day by gun violence. Photo by R Kevin Cook.

 

As others have across the nation, this rally brought together a dozen or more activist organizations. There is hope that this surge in support to “put an end to gun violence” will sustain its momentum in the short and long term. It is the largest ever protest directly confronting the NRA and politicians supported by the NRA. The clear message from demonstrators: get with the program or get out of the way.

Portland, Oregon

“Change is coming! We are the face of it!”

That rallying cry from Alexandria Goddard, a senior high school student in the Beaverton, Oregon, school district, summed up the sentiments of a series of impassioned student speakers who addressed a crowd packed shoulder-to-shoulder in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square Saturday afternoon.

March For Our Lives Portland, Oregon
Rain and cold temperatures didn’t deter thousands of Portlanders who took part in the local March for Our Lives rally. Photo by Chuck Thompson for WikiTribune.

“Tens of thousands” (Willamette Week) of locals began Portland’s March for Our Lives event at about 10:30 a.m. by walking up the main downtown thoroughfare of Southwest Broadway. Enduring chilly temperatures and drizzly skies, local residents in rain gear and warm clothing packed the entire width of the street, which was closed to traffic, before convening at the central downtown square, sometimes called “Portland’s living room.”

From a stage in a corner of the square, high school and middle school students often shouted through impassioned speeches. Each was wildly applauded as they encouraged others to register to vote and hold elected officials accountable for gun violence and perceived kowtowing to the NRA.

“Lawmakers … prove to us you still care about us!” shouted one of the speakers, a middle school boy from nearby North Clackamas School District. In 2012, Clackamas was the scene of a mass shooting when a 22-year-old man with an AR-15 assault rifle opened fire in the crowded Clackamas Town Center shopping mall, killing two people and severely injuring a 15-year-old girl, before committing suicide (The Oregonian).

Demonstrators at March For Our Lives rally in Portland, Oregon
At least 10,000 people gathered at downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square to hear a series of middle and high school student speakers. Photo by Chuck Thompson for WikiTribune.

Other students today spoke of the grim and surreal experience of taking part in lockdown and active-shooter drills in school, including a high school student who recalled cowering beneath her teacher’s desk and texting loved ones during an active-shooter false alarm.

Following the speakers, Portland-based Portugal. The Man played onstage. The band ended its performance with a version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” accompanied by a local youth choir.

London

Protesters for March for our Lives gather outside of the US Embassy
Protesters for March for Our Lives, London, gather outside of the U.S. Embassy.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly expats but also international supporters, gathered outside the American embassy. The stationary rally was organized by three American students from LSE, and supported by Amnesty International and Democrats Abroad. Songs were sung alongside chants of “Vote them out!” and “We call B.S.” Rally organizer David Scollan told the crowd: “For me, I’m here because my mom is a first-grade teacher, and my aunt is a school secretary.”

Christopher Roberts, a protest attendee, said: “If I could change one thing in the world, it would be the 2nd Amendment … I heard a speech, given by Emma Gonzalez. I made sure I listened to it all, and it was a Martin Luther King moment.”

March for Our Lives Organiser David Scollan addresses the crowd
March for Our Lives Organizer David Scollan addresses the crowd in London on March 24.

When asked what he would say to those who believe organizations like those collaborating with them today were using kids for their own agendas, David Scollan said:

“So, I mean, people can say whatever they like, obviously we’re all entitled to our own opinions, we’re not entitled to our own facts. The organizations that we had the privilege of having their advice, and having their effort in this, Amnesty, Democrats Abroad, the Women’s March London, all from the get-go said ‘we are not interested in taking this march over.’ I think if you saw, it was a March for Our Lives event, not an Amnesty event, not a Democrats Abroad event, not a Women’s March event. So, we appreciate the opinion, but I would just disagree with it. I think that the grassroots effort that we saw, and the advice that they gave, did not, you know, re-brand it into something that it wasn’t. It was a March for Our Lives.”

Heather Martin, a teacher who worked in the same district as the 2014 Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting, told WikiTribune that Trump’s proposal to arm teachers was “saying in order to solve this school shooting problem you just need to have more guns, is absolutely the same as trying to fight a fire with fire.”

After the speeches, a die-in was held and three minutes of silence observed.

Student protester holds up her sign saying 'Enough is Enough' at March for Our Lives, London
Student protester at Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally in London.

Washington, D.C.

Thousands gathered in D.C today protesting gun violence. The crowd of people who had come from around the country gathered along Pennsylvania Avenue. Marchers were addressed by students, children, and teenagers. David Hogg, one of the founding members of #Neveragain, said in his speech that ” winter is over, change is here.”

An online petition demanded Congress pass laws for change, to “protect and save children from gun violence.” The White House issued a statement describing protestors as “courageous young Americans.”

 

San Francisco

They came in waves, hundreds at a time, pouring up from the Civic Center BART tracks, out onto Civic Center Plaza.  Thousands of people flowed toward the music and the gold dome at the other end of the plaza.

Protesters gather for MarchForOurLives outside San Francisco City Hall on March 24

Across the plaza, signs proclaimed angry messages demanding change now. Parents and their children broadcast family pain and anger.

Young protester at MarchForOurLives San Francisco

Teenagers delivered their own brand of outrage,

Protesters at MarchForOurLives San Francisco

while those with longer memories revisited timeworn demands.

Protesters at MarchForOurLives San Francisco

Teachers we spoke with expressed hope for the future.

Hopeful protesters at MarchForOurLives San Francisco

Others had more grim sensibilities.

Grim protest at MarchForOurLives San Francisco

A wave of speakers shared hope and morbid memories–a Columbine survivor who had climbed over her classmates bodies to get to a police car, Diane Feinstein who in 1976 had discovered Harvey Milk’s body not five-hundred feet from where she addressed the crowd, survivors of Bay Area neighborhoods who recounted scene upon scene of brutal, bloody, and traumatizing attacks.

Simone, a senior at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, spoke about her experience with gun violence at MarchForOurLives SanFrancisco.

What we need help with

  • Accurate estimates of protestors in each city (need cited sources or quotes from officials)
  • Response from elected officials and other political leaders

(Read more from WikiTribune on how this protest began). 

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