March for Our Lives: ‘Nearly everyone had a story about gun violence’

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, calling for strict gun control law.

Hundreds Of Thousands Attend March For Our Lives In Washington DC
The rally was organised by students from Florida's Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School [Getty Images/AFP]

Washington, DC – Almost everyone at Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, had a story about gun violence.

I met a man whose friend committed suicide with a gun when he was 11 years old.

Teenagers told me about lockdown drills at their schools, in case there is ever an active attacker there.

One woman told me about her friend who was shot dead while sitting in his car.

Among those at the march was Jordin Torres who stood by herself, looking solemn as she held a poster that read: “I have a dream that one day I won’t be scared to go to school.” It showed a semi-automatic weapon pointed at a yellow pencil.

She told me: “I want more security in school. I want guns to be out of our schools, for kids to be safe.”

Like so many other teenagers I spoke to, school is no longer a place that feels secure for Torres. 

Torres was one of hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and their supporters who attended the march, calling for stricter gun control in the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings in US history last month. 

It was organised and led by the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At least 17 people were killed when a gunman went on a shooting rampage inside the school. 

For many teenagers, school is no longer a place that feels safe [Anar Virji/Al Jazeera]
For many teenagers, school is no longer a place that feels safe [Anar Virji/Al Jazeera]

At the rally, a teenage boy with his mother waved at me and smiled.

Ethan Lofgren has autism, and his mother worries about how he might react if there were a shooting at his school.

It’s on Ethan’s mind, too: “Sometimes I worry that something like that could … that a person like that might break into my school or even my house.”

Alma Gardner, another mother at the march, said safety is a constant worry: “We send our kids off to school in the morning not knowing if they’re going to make it home.”

Marcus Finley came to the march with his young son, who was perched on his shoulders.

Finley held a sign with a wish list: pizza all day, Disney World, no nap time, and safe schools.

“I have a young son who’s about to be in kindergarten,” Marcus said. “So making sure that the places he goes are safe and secure is really important.”

Students I spoke to want to feel free from danger not just in school, but everywhere.

Two days before the march, I went to Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, DC, where students held a rally with some of the protest leaders from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas.

Almost everyone at the rally had a story about gun violence [Anar Virji/Al Jazeera]
Almost everyone at the rally had a story about gun violence [Anar Virji/Al Jazeera]

Delonta Johnson, 15, attends Thurgood Marshall. After the rally, he told me about his personal experience with gun violence.

“Back in July 2012, July 27, two detectives came to my door and told me my father was dead, and he had died in an alley about twelve or one o’clock at night,” Johnson said.

“When I’m at home, I hear gunshots and it’s just, like, something I think should be changed. I shouldn’t have to go home and be affected by gunshots. I shouldn’t have to hear that.”

For so many people I spoke to at the march, the pervasiveness of gun violence in the United States and how it is affecting them is prompting them to protest.

Jared Rubin will soon graduate from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

One of his close friends, Joaquin Oliver, died in the shooting, and Jared is at the march with his aunt and older sister to give a voice to the 17 people who died on February 14.

He wants students to be able to go school and not have to fear for their lives.

“Make sure you tell your loved ones you love them,” Jared told me.

“In America right now, you really do not know if it will be your last time you’re able to say you love someone.”

Source: Al Jazeera