‘Stand for us or beware — the voters are coming’: One million people march on Washington

A protester holds up their sign during the Washington D.C. march on March 24.

Addie Gall

Chants of “Power to the people, not the guns” flooded the nation’s capital as gun control activists gathered for the March for Our Lives on March 24.

On Feb. 14, after a shooting in Parkland, Florida, survivors made it their mission to create change in gun legislation in the name of the 17 people who lost their lives after a 19-year-old gunman entered the halls of their school and forever altered their lives.

The warm weather welcomed one million people, double the predicted turnout, for the rally in Washington, D.C.

Students were not alone in the streets of D.C.; they were joined by people of all ages, including teachers. Kelly Brady, a teacher from New York City, made the trip to represent her students.

“It gives me a lot of hope as a teacher and a human being,” Brady said.

Protestors carried a variety of signs with the singular message “Never Again,” which Lisa Shipp, a teacher and mother from Virginia, held up high.

“We don’t need automatic weapons, even for hunting,” Shipp said.

Shipp was joined by Angela Bach and Deanna Cox, both parents from Virginia. Bach, who has a son who lives in Charlottesville, said the current generation is inspiring change much like in the 1970s.

Amid those advocating for change in gun legislation were members of Gun Owners of America, the second largest gun lobby in America. Aidan Johnston, a student at George Washington University and member of Gun Owners of America, wants gun owners to be a part of the conversation.

“I see a lot of uneducated statements being made by the media,” Johnston said.

Underneath the shadow of the Capitol Building, survivors of gun violence took to the stage to tell their stories. Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, said young people are the voice of the future because they are the future.

“Stand for us or beware — the voters are coming,” Kasky said.

This day was especially important to the Parkland shooting survivors. The March for Our Lives shares a significant date: Saturday was Nicholas Dworet’s birthday, one of the 17 students who lost their lives.

Samantha Fuentes, another survivor of the Parkland shooting, ended her time on stage by asking the crowd to join her in singing “Happy Birthday” to Dworet. Voices filled the breezy D.C. air as those in the street joined the melody. He would have been 18.

Closing speaker and Parkland survivor Emma González spoke briefly, naming each of the victims who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. In the middle of her speech, she stood in silence for a few minutes as the crowd raised their fists until a timer went off, breaking the stark silence.

“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds,” González said. “The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest.”

On the day in 1965, young people marched in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery for the right of all citizens to vote. After a guest speaker was announced, the audience went quiet until they heard her last name — King.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, stepped onto the stage to inspire the crowd.

“I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period,” she said.

Addie Gall is the student politics reporter. Contact her at [email protected].