Saturday, several University students attended one of the major “March For Our Lives” events in Washington, D.C., and New York City to call for improved gun control in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that took place this February.
Amanda Eisenhour ’21, is from northern Virginia and regularly attends marches and rallies in D.C. She helped organize the large gun control rally that took place outside Frist two weeks ago. Nevertheless, she said that this one was special.
“Out of all the events I’ve been to, this one felt very unique and powerful,” she said. She added that most of the people attending the wave of rallies and protests in D.C. that began after President Trump was inaugurated have been older adults.
“This isn’t a new insight, but the march was seriously populated by young people, and by people of color, and the speakers reflected that,” said Eisenhour.
She said that having speakers from a variety of backgrounds was important, because people of color, especially black people, are often left out of discussions about gun control and gun violence, even though it disproportionately affects them. For example, Time Magazine reported last year that black children are 10 times more likely to die from gun violence than their white counterparts.
Eisenhour also noted that many have criticised supporters of the “March For Our Lives” protests for not mobilizing for Black Lives Matter and other groups focusing on how gun violence affects communities of color.
“I’m a target of that criticism,” she said “Looking back on it, I should’ve been there, marching in solidarity.”
She cited an increase in positive media attention for the “March for Our Lives” movement, and said that she hoped participating in “March for Our Lives” would lead people to be more involved in other social justice groups like Black Lives Matter.
Lizzy McGee ’18, who attended the New York City “March for Our Lives,” said that she “holds more conservative beliefs than 99.9 percent” of her friends on campus, but that she thinks that common-sense gun control is something everyone should be able to get behind.
McGee said her personal experience with gun violence was one of the reasons she thought it was important to march.
“I have a family friend whose son committed suicide with a gun they had in their house,” she said.
She added that “the statistics speak for themselves,” referencing an that found that having a gun in a home increases the risk of successful suicide attempts for all inhabitants and the risk of murder for women in the home.
McGee, who is concentrating in history, also saw the march as an exciting way to participate in the democratic processes she has studied in class.
“This sounds cheesy, but the democratic process has been on my mind lately,” she said.
“If people don’t use their voices to speak out on issues like gun control, then nothing will change.”
McGee’s friend Carly Maitlin ’19 hadn’t planned on attending the march in New York, but was glad she did.
“It was my first march. I just tagged along,” she said. “I didn't even know it was happening; I was planning on getting a manicure that morning.”
However, once she saw some of her friends making posters for the march, she “got hyped and decided to take part in democracy.”
Anna-Alexia Novogratz ’18 also attended the New York City “March for Our Lives.”
“It was pretty amazing, because it was led by young people,” said Novogratz, who said she saw children as young as seven leading chants and carrying signs bearing slogans such as “Peanut butter is more regulated than guns!” In addition, toddlers too young to write carried signs with drawings they’d made.
Novogratz said that regardless of how they participated, young people’s role in the march was inspiring.
“It gave me a lot of hope that there’s a generation of kids growing up who are seeing marching and direct action as an agent for political change,” she said, adding that “political action wasn’t something I grew up with.”
Novogratz also stressed that the march was about gun control, not just school shootings. She said the Parkland students who helped organize the event did a good job of including speakers with a variety of different experiences with gun violence, including students from the South Side of Chicago, which helped showcase many gendered and racialized aspects of gun violence in the United States.
Novogratz said that attending the march in her hometown of New York City was an especially powerful experience. “Being with hundred of thousands of people in my city, seeing young people from my city marching … the energy was indescribable.”