Ns News Online Desk: Teenagers are taking America where adults won’t go. Millions of demonstrators swarmed the streets of at least 800 cities around the world Saturday in support of tougher gun control laws in what may be the biggest youth-led protest movement since the Vietnam War.The main March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, was the day’s biggest, drawing an estimated 500,000 people to demand new laws and an end to gun violence in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, FL.
Marchers packed 10 blocks on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the US Capitol and heard a program dominated by teenage speakers. The 9-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. told marchers at the Washington, DC, rally Saturday that she has a dream of her own. “I have a dream that enough is enough,” Yolanda Renee King said, recalling her grandfather’s famous 1963 speech delivered from nearly the same place on the National Mall. “That this should be a gun-free world. Period.”
The clamoring crowd cheered the little girl on. King finished by leading the crowd in a chant, saying, “Spread the word! Have you heard? All across the nation, we are going to be a great generation!”
In Parkland, Fla., more than 20,000 filled Pine Trails Park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, where a gunman killed 17 last month. Students and supporters chanted “Enough is enough” and held up signs with slogans like “Our ballots will stop bullets.”
“I’m marching so no other parent has to hear, ‘Mom, I’ve been shot,’ ” read the sign carried by Ellen Mayor, the mother of a student who was shot in the knee in the Parkland attack and survived. In Boston, 50,000 thronged Boston Common. A young boy stood atop a snowbank with a sign reading “13 years old and afraid. Not Okay.” “I will always remember every single detail,” Leonor Muñoz, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, in Parkland told the Boston protesters. “My trauma isn’t going away.”
Rallies in Miami, Cincinnati, Houston, Minneapolis, and elsewhere also drew big crowds. On the West Coast, 60,000 people marched on Los Angeles City Hall, according to police estimates. Actress/singer Willow Smith, 17, praised the Parkland student activists for “connecting themselves through their passion and through their pain.”
In Sacramento, Calif., thousands chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go” at the state capitol. Rallies in San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego drew thousands.We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters. “Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president’s.”
Survivors of the 1999 Columbine HS massacre were overjoyed by the big crowds Saturday at gun-control rallies across the country. “I have been waiting so long for something like this to happen,” said Joanna Gates, who was 17 when she lived through the massacre in Colorado that left 13 dead — not counting the two shooters. “It’s time for change. It’s beyond time,” Gates told the Sunday Times of London while at the anti-gun march in Washington.
At a related protest in Denver, Coni Sanders, whose father was a Columbine teacher killed in the shooting, said, “We’ve been marching on these issues for 18 years. This is the first time that I’ve really felt any hope.” And the protests weren’t limited to the US.
From Argentina to Iceland, from Ghana to New Zealand, young people and their supporters rallied across the world Saturday in support of American students fighting for stricter gun-control laws. The March For Our Lives Web site listed over 40 “sister marches” in other countries. The first of the day was in tiny Pohnpei, one of the islands of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Soon afterward, a few hundred people gathered in Sydney, Australia. With a poster featuring a shark, a crocodile, snakes and spiders, one protester made her point clear: “Of all the things that can kill you in Australia, a mass shooter isn’t one of them.” Gun laws in Australia were tightened after a 1996 massacre in which 35 people were killed.
A large rally took place in Tokyo, and thousands marched to the US Consulate in Mumbai, India. Events in Europe stretched from Madrid to Lithuania. Hundreds dropped to the ground in a “die-in” near the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin and outside the new U.S. Embassy in London. In Paris, about 100 demonstrators rallied near the Eiffel Tower.
In Denmark, Finnish exchange student Iida Keskinen told CNN the idea that mass shootings have become the norm “has really shook me.” “I really wanted to make sure I had even a small impact in supporting this cause,” she said.