If you’ve seen (or read) the news lately, you’ll have heard about the #MarchForOurLives rallies that took place all over the US and across the world. The story behind the movement is a sad one, but important to talk about – here’s everything you need to know.
WHAT PROMPTED #MARCHFOROURLIVES?
On February 14, a gunman shot 14 students and three staff members at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He was a former student at the school, and walked right in with a weapon he had legally purchased – an all-too-familiar, absolutely heartbreaking tale. Less than a week after the tragic event, the survivors of the shooting launched the #NeverAgain movement, and began planning a protest against gun violence. Called #MarchForOurLives, the student-organised rally was to take its fight to Washington, DC on Saturday, March 24.
Created by and led by the kids, the campaign’s goal was clear. It was an urgent call for gun control, and a plea for student safety (the shooting was the eighth mass school shooting this year… and it was only February). In other words, enough was enough.
The March’s mission statement says:
“We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes… We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”
In trying to prevent gun violence at American schools, the rally had three main demands:
- Ban assault weapons.
- Stop the sale of high-capacity firearms (aka those that can hold a lot of ammo).
- Require background checks on EVERY gun purchase.
Even though the students were fighting for Congress to change the laws, the rally was not politically affiliated.
On the campaign’s website, student activist Emma González said, “This isn’t a political rally. It’s literally a march for our lives.”
WHERE WAS THE #MARCHFOROURLIVES RALLY?
The main march was in Washington, D.C. just blocks away from the Capitol – where the lawmakers do their thing. The organisers were expecting 500,000 people to show up: instead, more than 800,000 protestors flooded the streets, making it the biggest demonstration in the capital city’s history.
Though the White House praised the protestors for exercising their right to free speech, President Trump wasn’t at the White House that weekend. He was at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida – and around 5,000 activists took the march to him.
There were also over 800 sister marches around the world. In the States, there were huge turnouts in major cities from coast-to-coast, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Dallas, Portland and New York – where thousands of marchers wore bright orange, the official colour of gun control advocacy groups.
While we could write a whole series about the memorable moments at each march, let’s zone in on Washington – the one you’ve probably seen splashed on TV.
Martin Luther King Jr’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, confidently spoke not far from where her famous grandpa did 55 years ago. She led the crowd in a rousing cheer, and said: “I have a dream that enough is enough. And this should be a gun-free world, period.”
An 11-year-old, Christopher Underwood, whose older brother was shot walking home from a graduation party, gave a speech that was wise beyond his years. He said, “I would like to not worry about dying. But focus on math and science and playing basketball with my friends. Don’t I deserve to grow up?”
Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland student and face of the movement, listed all of her classmates, then stopped suddenly for 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence. This symbolised the amount of time it took the gunman to go on his rampage.
Celebs like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Cher, Amy Schumer, Julianne Moore, Ariana Grande, and Jimmy Fallon showed their support by tweeting about the march and attending rallies across the country.
WHO FUNDED THE RALLY?
The students raised more than $3 million through a GoFundMe campaign: half of that covered the Washington march, and the other half went to families of the Parkland shooting victims. They also earned donations through their March For Our Lives Action Fund.
Tons of celebs stepped in to offer financial support. George and Amal Clooney kicked things off by donating $500,000, which was matched by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Gucci. Ellen DeGeneres, Chrissy Tiegen, John Legend, Gabrielle Union, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony (from the Miami Heat basketball team) also made large donations. Broadway stars Lin-Manual Miranda (from Hamilton) and Ben Platt released a song, “Found/Tonight,” and pledged part of the proceeds to the rally.
Businesses pitched in, too. Lyft gave $1.5 million worth of free rides to anyone attending a #MarchForOurLives event across the US, and celeb chef José Andrés organised free meals for students at DC restaurants on the day of the rally. And Bumble, the dating app, donated $100,000.
The pressure from protestors has already brought about some change. Florida State banned ‘bump stocks,’ which let semi-automatic weapons fire off like machine guns. They also raised the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, and instituted a three-day waiting period on gun purchases. On a national level, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes improvements to background checks for gun sales, and grants to help schools to prevent gun violence.
As for the next event, the Parkland students are planning a National High School Walkout on April 20. They are hoping inspire their peers, young people, to register to vote in November’s elections – and vote out the politicians who support gun use.
Words by Katia Iervasi.