March for Our Lives Rally Results in Record Breaking Attendance
March for Our Lives was a student-led demonstration in support of tighter gun control that took place on March 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C., with over 800 sibling events throughout the United States and around the world.
Student organizers from Never Again MSD planned the march in collaboration with the nonprofit organization, Every town for Gun Safety. The event followed the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which was described by many media outlets as a possible tipping point for gun control legislation.
Protesters urged for universal background checks on all gun sales, raising the federal age of gun ownership and possession to the age of 21, closing of the gun show loophole, a restoration of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines in the United States.
Turnout was estimated to be between 1.2 to 2 million people in the United States, making it one of the largest protests in American history.
The date was chosen in order to give students, families and others a chance to mourn first, and then on March 24, talk about gun control.
Organizers filed a permit application with the National Park Service during the week of February 23, and expected as many as 500,000 people to attend.
However the National Mall, which was the planned site of the main march in Washington, D.C. was reportedly already booked for March 24; the application, filed by an unidentified local student group, claimed it was for a talent show.
A permit was later obtained for Pennsylvania Avenue The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced it would operate extra trains for the march.
The Enough! National School Walkout was held on the one-month anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
It involved students walking out from their classes for exactly seventeen minutes (one for each of the victims of the massacre) and involved more than 3,000 schools across the United States and nearly one million students. Thousands of students also gathered and staged a rally in Washington D.C. after observing 17 minutes of silence with their backs to the White House.
Amal and George Clooney donated $500,000 to support the march and announced they would attend. Oprah Winfrey matched the Clooney donation to support the march. Jeffrey Katzenberg also contributed $500,000. Film director and producer Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw Spielberg donated $500,000, also matching the donation of the Clooney’s. On February 23, Gucci announced they were also donating $500,000 towards the march.
Other people and organizations offering support have included Justin Bieber, Gabby Giffords, Lauren Jauregui, Alyssa Milano, Moms Demand Action, Amy Schumer, St. Vincent, Harry Styles, Hayley Williams, and Sir Paul McCartney, donated $25,000.
Jimmy Fallon pledged to attend an event with his family. Samantha Bee interviewed kids. Jim Jefferies interviewed participants in San Diego. Other celebrities, including Taylor Swift, have donated an undisclosed amount of money toward the campaign.
John Zimmer and Logan Green, the co-founders of Lyft, announced their support of the rallies and stated that their company would provide free rides for those attending demonstrations. Dating app Bumble CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, subsequently announced that they were supporting the NeverAgain movement by banning all images of firearms on their dating application.
In anticipation and planning of the day’s events, many streets in the nation’s capital were closed to vehicular traffic. Several blocks of streets encompassing much of the National Mall, stretching from the Washington Monument to the United States Capitol and from Independence Avenue to E Street, were closed to vehicular traffic.
Demonstrations and marches were held across the U.S: in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Puerto Rico.
Outside the U.S., the cause was also supported by Canada, Africa, Asia, Europe, Germany, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Argentina.
March for Our Lives was among the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War era.
The speakers, most of whom were high schoolers or younger, included Marjory Stoneman Douglas, students Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Delaney Tarr, Sarah Chadwick, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch, Aalayah Eastmond, Sam Fuentes and Emma González.
Other participants included Naomi Wadler, who is an elementary school student in Alexandria, Virginia, Trevon Bosley from Chicago, whose brother was shot and killed leaving church, Zion Kelly, whose twin brother was shot and killed during an armed robbery, Yolonda Reene King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., also made an appearance, Christopher Underwood, an 11-year old from New York, and Matthew Soto, brother of Sandy Hook victim Victoria Soto.
González, after briefly speaking and naming the 17 victims, stood silent for over four minutes, after which a cellphone alarm went off and she announced that it was the six minutes and twenty second point in her speech, equal to the length of the Parkland shooting. Her speech and emotional moment of silence were praised by many media organizations as one of the “most memorable” and “powerful” moments in the day’s events. González ended her speech by saying:
“Since the time that I came out here, it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”
Singers Ariana Grande, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, Andra Day, Common, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga and Demi Lovato joined student-led marchers in Washington, D.C.
On March 21, NRA TV host Grant Stinchfield stated that, “March for Our Lives is backed by radicals with a history of violent threats, language and actions.” Fact-checker PolitiFact has rated this statement as being “without merit” and “Pants on Fire” indicating that it is a “ridiculous claim.”
While the march was occurring, the NRA posted a membership drive video on their Facebook page, declaring that the “protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment.” Another video dubbed “A March for Their Lies” was uploaded to YouTube featuring Colion Noir, in which he described the planned rally as a “carnival of a march.” Noir also said in the video that there is an “agenda that’s a million times bigger than the guns.”
The White House said in a response that they “applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their first amendment rights”.
On the day of the protests, Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio responded by stating: “However, many other Americans do not support a gun ban” and “view banning guns as an infringement on the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens that ultimately will not prevent these tragedies.” He called for protesters to find “common ground with those who hold opposing views” for change to happen.
Former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticized the Parkland activists, suggesting during an interview with CNN that students should be learning ways to respond to a shooter rather than asking lawmakers “to solve their problem.” Santorum advised students to take classes in CPR, rather than marching in Washington.
On social media, fake pictures and GIFs of Emma González tearing up a copy of the U.S. Constitution were circulated in an effort to discredit the march. The images were doctored from originals of González tearing up a shooting target sign. Actor and conservative commentator Adam Baldwin defended circulating the doctored images as “political satire.”
Annessa Jenkins, a Psychology major at NCC, attended the event with her wife and their two youngest children. Reflecting on their time there, she said, “I had goosebumps from head to toe. We chanted ‘What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!’”
“I cried and shared in this momentous time of collective consciousness wanting and demanding our government to do something about it. To change our gun laws. I stood shoulder to shoulder with every ethnicity and education level imaginable, male and female alike.”
“What really got to me were the kids,” Jenkins said. “I still have my children. There were many parents there without their precious babies. Their son or daughter no longer with them because they rest in strong, silent graves absent from the world that took their lives.”