WASHINGTON (March 24) — Here, as in at least 80 cities across America and in Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America, students have inspired protests and adopted the hashtag #MarchForOurLives in order to declare their opposition to a lack of action on the part of Congress and other government leaders on meaningful, or at least sensible, gun reform legislation.
Generations before these young people were born, protesters led rallies over civil rights, the Vietnam War, and other political issues. Likewise, future generations will march in protests like this one, revolutions in their own right. It would seem those future generations will look back on this early spring day with gratitude toward these young people who marched and draw inspiration from the eloquence of young voices addressing complex political questions.
The first student to speak during the formal program here was Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a massacre killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day. He had previously challenged Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, to stop accepting donations from the National Rifle Association. Today he called on Congress to enact universal background checks on gun sales and to ban assault rifles outright.
“Welcome to the revolution,” he cried to a crowd filled with tens of thousands of people—many of them high school, middle school, and college students—from across the country. They came by bus from South Carolina, by caravan from New Mexico, and by the Metro from Virginia. Bolstered by unlimited determination and resolve over this one issue, they carried signs, like “#EnoughIsEnough,” “#NeverAgain,” “This ends now,” “School is no place for fear,” “Arms are for hugging,” and “Math lesson: Our lives > Your stupid guns.”
While it’s not common for a single issue, no matter how big, to be responsible for a “revolution,” to use Mr Kasky’s word, the volume of this protest is undeniable, easily rivaling the sheer number of protesters who rallied against the Vietnam War or civil rights abuses in the past. And while this is not the change, meaningful change has always started with signs like these: the groundswell of young people, telling old and jaded politicians, whose corruption had possibly become insurmountable and whose ability to bring about positive change had fizzled, that their stances on an issue need to change. Now.
Another Stoneman Douglas junior, Alex Wind, called for changes to gun laws at the national level as well. He said that if politicians hadn’t taken a public stance on the issue of gun control, they “have chosen death.” He went on to demand “common sense gun legislation” and to promise politicians that millions of people marching around the world wouldn’t stop fighting until change comes or those politicians are voted out.
There was also a noticeable voter registration drive going on here. On just about every street corner between the Metro stations that were within walking distance of the events and the march itself, there were booths where roving volunteers with clipboards signed people up.