A thundering demonstration for gun control attracted nearly a million people to Washington, DC, on Saturday, and others gathered across the United States, in big cities and small towns. Enough is enough, they said. We need more regulation and we need it now.
This wide, powerful movement was organized by the students of Parkland High School in Florida, where 17 teenagers lost their lives in a mass shooting on Feb. 15. In little over a month a wave was formed, and it does not seem to be slowing down like it did every other time the US was hit by mass shootings.
It is the first time that survivors and the victims’ relatives did not limit themselves to praying and hugging each other — they started a nationwide protest, sending a precise message: we are marching today, but voting in November.
The idea was written on many signs across March For Our Lives demonstrations: in November there will be eight million new voters — even more in 2020 — and they will not vote for anyone with ties to the NRA, the gun lobby.
At the end of the rally, students, teachers, parents and mass shooting survivors followed each other on the Washington podium. Many were teenagers, between 15 and 18 years old, facing an audience of hundreds of thousands plus the national networks with a scowl — only interrupted by emotion and pain before they resumed their speeches.
One of the Florida students, overcome with passion, paused to vomit and then continued her appeal: you must let us live, weapons are less important than us. The strongest contributions came from students who survived mass shootings in American schools, such as the adolescents who were then kids at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. They talked about that day, in which a mentally ill 20-year-old went to their school and killed 20 children and seven adults. All of the speeches ended in the same way: “we won’t let your NRA-dictated agenda win. We won’t vote for you. We will defeat you.”
Martin Luther King’s niece, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, gospel choirs and other artists sang for the students followed each other on the stage — but the wounded and informed American teenagers remain the true protagonists. They faced the crowd with a lion’s anger broken by tears, as happened to Emma Gonzalez, one of the most well-known faces of the movement, together with David Hogg.
Gonzalez asked the audience to remain silent for six and a half minutes: the duration of the Florida shooting. In those six minutes, tears ran down the faces of people on the stage and among the audience. Most of them are very young, but there are also some baby boomers and a few of generation X — grandparents and parents who took boys and girls to the march.
A 15-year-old named Isa said he came with his dad to the Washington rally. He said he hears about vigils and prayers for shootings, then goes to school and wonders if it’s going to happen to him. “At some point, the moment comes when we have got to say ‘enough is enough,’” he said.
Demonstrations in other cities were as emotional and attracted as many people. In the states with more restrictive gun laws, mayors, governors and senators joined the march, but always stayed behind the students. “I’m a high school student, and I’m black, too,” says Sam, 17, at the New York City rally. “Do you know how much of a chance I’ve got to be killed by guns? Think about it. I’ve got enemies everywhere. Don’t talk to me about the Second Amendment for a semi-automatic machine gun, please.”