Americans across the country march for their lives

“To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down and stay silent, wait your turn. Welcome to the revolution,” Cameron Kasky, a survivor from Parkland, Florida proclaimed to an estimated crowd of 800,000 people on Saturday’s March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

“The people in this country now see past the lies. We have seen this narrative before. For the first time the corrupt aren’t controlling our story- we are. The corrupt aren’t manipulating the facts. We know the truth,” said Kasky. “Shooting after shooting, the American people now see one thing they all have in common: the weapons.”

Saturday’s march rallied the people to demand United States politicians to create legislation that bans the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and create universal background checks and was organized by student survivors of the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 15 students and two teachers.

“We must stand beside those we lost and fix the world that betrayed them. This just doesn’t happen in schools. Americans are being attacked in churches, nightclubs, movie theaters and on the streets, by we, the people, can fix this,” said Kasky. “For the first time in a long while, I look forward 10 years and I feel hope. I see light.”

Although this march was led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students who have been victims of various forms of gun violence across the country told their stories.

Zion Kelly, a student at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington D.C., spoke about the shooting of his twin brother, Zaire Kelly, on September 20, 2017 during his walk home from an after-school program.

“He was a person. A leader. An inspirer. Not just another statistic,” said Kelly.

To honor Zaire Kelly, his family has proposed the Zaire Kelly Public Safety Zone Amendment Act of 2018. This amendment will create safe passage zones, to and from schools and activities. The amendment expands the definition of a student to include people enrolled in public and private daycares, elementary, secondary, vocational schools, colleges, junior colleges and universities. This amendment would also make recreation centers a gun-free zone.

Kelly walked off the stage with the message, “My name is Zion Kelly and, like you, I have had enough.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas students were not afraid to address their privilege.

“Parkland is the heart of this movement but just as a heart needs blood to pump, my hometown needs the alliance of other communities to properly spread this message. We openly recognize that we are privileged individuals that and would not have us received as much attention if we weren’t for the affluence of our city,” said Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Jaclyn Corbin.

“This issue is undoubtedly an epidemic that affects communities of all classes. An epidemic that the Center for Disease Control does not have the funds to research,” said Corbin. “This disease continues to spread even though we have discovered the cure but our government officials close their ears because it involves change. A change that does not align with their own agenda.”

David Hogg, Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, came onto the stage flashing an orange price tag reading “$1.05.” This tag represents the 3,140,167 students enrolled in Florida schools, divided by Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s $3,303,355 donation from the National Rifle Association (NRA), putting the price of student’s lives at $1.05.

Naomi Wadler, an 11 year-old student from Alabama, representing Courtland Arrington, Hadiya Pendleton and Tiana Thompson, African-American girls who were victims of gun violence and whose stories did not make national media attention.

“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” said Wadler.

“For far too long these black girls and women have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘never again’ for those girls too. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls too.” said Wadler.

Emma Gonzalez, the face of the movement and student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, named the victims of the Parkland massacre and then stood silently in front of the world for 6 minutes and 20 seconds to symbolize how long it took Nicolas Cruz to murder 17 students and teachers of her high school.

“The march is not the climax of this movement, it is the beginning,” said Kasky. “Today is a bad day for tyranny and corruption.”

Over 800 marches took place in the United States and around the world. President Trump did not have a comment, but White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement, “We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today. Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the President’s, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence Acts, and signed them into law.”

Sadie Helmick can be contacted at [email protected].