gun control

The silence that screamed: Across the US, school students march to demand gun controls

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of an attack in Florida, won hearts with a speech that included an eloquent four-minute moment of quiet.

On March 24, Washington DC witnessed hundreds of thousands rallying as part of the March For Our Lives protest. The intention of the march was to make the voice of the victims of gun violence and their families be heard by United States lawmakers.

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting of February 14 in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead, the survivors of the incident quickly organised themselves to push for serious legal developments towards gun control. Apart from the main rally in Washington DC, “sibling marches” were organised nationwide in the United States.

While the participants in Washington swarmed across Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, protesters gathered in New York City, San Franscisco, Parkland, Nebraska, and even Hong Kong. While Trump remained silent on the protest, Barack Obama took to Twitter to voice his support for March For Our Lives.

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the February 14 massacre and one of the faces of Never Again MSD, gave a stirring speech in Washington DC. One of the highlights of Gonzalez’s speech was her going abruptly silent in honour and memory of the fallen with the crowds cheering her after a while. She ended her speech by saying, “Fight for your lives before it is someone else’s job.”

Later, Gonzalez tweeted, asking people to wonder how it would have felt if they had to hide during her silence.

Eleven-year-old Naomi Walder emerged as a star speaker at the rally. The fifth grade student from Virginia spoke of female African-American victims of gun violence being ignored by the news media. She cited the examples of African-American girl victims of school shootings like Courtlin Arrington, Hadiya Pendleton and Taiyania Thompson. “For far too long, these names, these black girls and women have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls too.” Walder said. ‘I’m here to say that everyone should value those girls, too.”

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Naomi Walder.

Los Angeles high schooler Edna Chavez was another inspiring speaker at the protest in Washington DC. Her brother, Ricardo, a high school student back in 2007 when he was shot dead, was a victim of everyday gun violence on the US streets.

“This is normal... normal to the point that I’ve learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read,” Chavez said. Her speech got the crowd to chant Ricardo’s name while she controlled her tears.

Other speakers who drew a considerable amount of attention at the rally were 11-year-old Christopher Underwood from Brooklyn whose brother died from a shooting when he was five (“I would like to not worry about dying. But worry about math and play basketball with my friends,” he said) and Yolanda Renee King, who invoked her great-grandfather Martin Luther King’s iconic speech when she said, “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun free world, period.”

Hollywood stars graced the rally at Washington DC by performing on stage in between the speeches. The performers included Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande and Common among others.

Elsewhere, in America, Paul McCartney attended the rally at New York City wearing a shirt that said “We Can End Gun Violence.”

“One of my best friends [McCartney’s The Beatles colleague John Lennon] was killed in gun violence right around here, so it’s important to me,” McCartney told CNN in an interview.

Other celebrities participating in the marches included Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon, comedian and television host Jimmy Fallon, Parks and Recreation actor Nick Offerman, and the husband-wife pair of George and Amal Clooney who earlier donated $500,000 to the protest initiative.

The March For Our Lives protests also saw a host of provocative, confrontational and creative messages and slogans on display on the placards carried by the participants. Here are a few samples.

People on Twitter supported the March For Our Lives movement in huge numbers.

Among the hashtags that began to trend around the protests such as #MarchForOurLives and #NeverAgain, United States Army veterans began to voice their support for gun control measures using the hashtag #VetsForGunReform and #VeteransForGunReform.

But Twitter also saw its fair share of detractors of the March For Our Lives protests. Pro-gun Americans condemned the movement and were contemptuous or sardonic about the efforts undertaken by teenage activists across the United States to bring about gun control reforms.

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