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By Yingjie Gu 3-26-2018

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of youth and their families gathered at the nation’s Capitol for the March For Our Lives rally, organized by survivors of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The teen organizers spoke out about their fear of gun violence in schools, and their demand for immediate gun control legislation to prevent similar tragedies from happening.  

Among the teen representatives who took center stage at the rally was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter Yolanda Renee King.

“I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said, referring to the historic speech delivered by her grandfather in 1963. “And that this should be a gun-free world, period.”

Holding signs, posters, and banners, people marched along the Pennsylvania Avenue NW, from the Capitol toward the White House. According to the March For Our Lives website, at least 846 sibling protests occurred at same time, in cities across America and the world, from San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City to Brussels and Paris.

Douglas student Cameron Kasky wrote on Twitter Sunday that their “low-ball” estimate of attendees at the D.C. march was 850,000. If the estimate is accurate, it could be the largest single-day rally in America’s history — larger even than the historic Women’s March in January 2017.

“I think the fact that young people everywhere were taking initiative, standing up, and leading in their communities showed that we learn that our voices matter. And so many people came and registered to vote,” Kasky said just after the march.

Two American University students, Bella Cimarusti and Verónica Del Valle, said they felt empowered participating in the rally.

“As people of our generation, it’s important that we disprove the stereotype that we don’t care or are apathetic about what’s going on in our country,” Cimarusti said. “And obviously this rally has proved that… We are ready to fight and make changes that we want.”

Del Valle added, “It calls for action.”

Organizers of March For Our Lives also started a petition, asking people — especially young people — to demand that lawmakers to pass concrete legislations to stop gun violence at school.

“We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution,” the petition says. “But with that right comes responsibility. We call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us, to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.”

In his speech at the march, Cameron Kasky elaborated on those goals: “The people demand a law banning the sale of assault weapons. The people demand that we prohibit the sale of high capacity magazines. The people demand universal background checks. Stand for us or beware. The voters are coming.”

Many people of faith attended the march, sounding similar calls.

Tina Byrnes, a resident of Michigan who attended a pre-march faith rally hosted by Sojourners with her grandchildren, said that she came to Washington out of concern for her grandchildren’s safety at school.

“We need to ban assault rifles,” she said. “They don’t need to be scared going to school [or] have those kinds of drills.”

Byrnes said she hopes to see her grandchildren become young activists, adding that although she’s a spiritual person with no specific religious affiliation, she attended the pre-rally as she thinks it delivered an important message.

“I told them, if you don’t learn anything else — only love can conquer fear. That’s [a] great message,” she said.

Kari Barns, a Disciple of Christ, took a bus from suburban Maryland to meet with other Christians at an Episcopal Church in Washington.

“Most of the religions in the world preach peace and tolerance and non-violence, and that’s how [this march] is related to my religious beliefs,” she said.

James Broady, a Vietnam war veteran and Baptist Christian, held a poster calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment.

“I went to the Million Man March — that was about gun violence,” Broady said. “Black Lives Matter, that’s about gun violence. And here’s another rally where gun violence is attacking school and everything — not just streets, it’s going into school. It has to stop, and it has to go back to the Second Amendment.”

He said the only time that Americans needed guns were before the country gained independence from the United Kingdom, and that now it’s time to repeal that law.

Ten days ago, students across the country walked out of their classrooms to show support for the victims of the Parkland shooting. The violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is second-deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in the past decade, killing 17 students and teachers and wounding many more. The walkout, initiated by organizers of the Women’s March, commemorated the one-month anniversary of the tragedy.

Yingjie (Jenny) Gu is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, specializing in politics and national security. Before Medill, she interned for Chinese Radio Seattle, her hometown newspaper, and Seattle nonprofits.

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