While President Trump golfed in Florida, 800,000 Americans descended on the nation’s Capitol to demand change in this county’s gun laws.
If you were watching from home, you likely saw the aerial shots of hundreds of thousands of people, not marching so much, but standing and listening to the words of students. The March for Our Lives stopped being a march even before the official starting time of noon – there were simply too many people to move.
Across the country and the world, millions marched in solidarity with the kids that survived the Parkland shooting. They were all united behind the premise that Emma Gonzalez spoke of in her incredible six minute and twenty second long speech that included the words: “Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job.”
Samantha Fuentes spoke in memory of her friend, Nicholas Dworet, that couldn’t be there to speak as he was murdered in front of her at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:
“Today is his birthday, I’d like to sing together Happy Birthday…” And after a countdown from Samantha much of the crowd started singing to him, many people holding each other and crying (personally I didn’t break down during this moment, but now I write this through a waterfall of tears). It was the moments like this that truthfully personalized it for a lot of people in the crowd, as they watched on jumbotrons, blocks away from the actual stage.
Gwenevere Abriel is the parent of one of the kids that were in the school on that fateful day. She was standing outside of the packed Pennsylvania Ave march route with her family, where it was a bit quieter. I asked her what she hoped would come out of this day.
She told me, “When they see this on television, they’ll say ok, me too. Now maybe I have the courage to go out, I can represent my core values, I won’t be alone, I have momentum with a large group of people… That’s my hope.”
The march was large enough that it stretched all the way past Trump’s Hotel, which is where I met up with Juliet and her mom who were holding signs in front of one of the gated entrances to the building.
Juliet’s sign simply read “2020 Voter.” If you’re a Republican or Democrat for that matter who takes money from the NRA, her sign was probably one of the ones that might give you shivers. As she was already decided that she was prepared “to be able to vote against people who want to vote for guns.”
Juliet’s simple message echoed that of the signs and voices of other people that I talked to: “Our right to live is more important than their right to have a gun.”
As an aside, no one that I spoke to at the march was calling for confiscation, and not only because it’s a ridiculous proposition when you consider the practicalities.
You never know what a single event like this one will do. Whether it will change the conversation or just be another big story that fizzles out as the reality and difficulty of actually making change beats down on you. For every Black Lives Matter or Women’s March there’s a hundred Impeachment March’s or even Science March’s, neither of which really has shown much organization outside of the actual event.
But the March For Our Lives has a different feel to me.
I’ve been covering the ‘protest’ movements in America for going on 20 years now (my God I’m old). To me, the March for Our Lives has all the pinnings of a lasting movement. If the adults just let the kids do their thing, then it just might succeed…
Now we all just need to figure out how to be good allies and not grumpy, cynical old people.