Protesters gather to demand change
Washington is preparing for a massive rally in support of gun control, one that organizers hope will prove that the country has reached an emotional tipping point on gun violence, with teenagers seizing the initiative and leading the demand for change.
The nation’s capital is generally nonchalant about protests, but today’s gathering has prompted more attention and speculation than usual.
Estimates on crowd size are notoriously unreliable, but organizers are hoping to draw 500,000 protesters; that would match last year’s women’s march and make this one of the largest Washington protests since the Vietnam era. It would also bolster claims that the nation is ready to enact sweeping changes to its gun-control laws. More than 800 other concurrent marches are planned in cities across America and dozens of locations overseas.
“I look at the younger kids and the future generations. and I never want them to go through what we went through or see what we saw,” said 15-year-old Kayla Renert, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed Feb. 14.
Renert, who sheltered in a classroom during the attack and had a friend wounded in the leg, was on a bus bringing her to Washington from the airport after flying up from Florida on Friday. She pointed out that the Parkland shooting wasn’t even the most recent school shooting in the United States. One student was wounded and another later died from her wounds after being shot Tuesday in southern Maryland; the 17-year old gunman was also killed.
“We keep saying, ‘Oh this is going to be the last time.’ But there’s already been another time,” Renert said.
Many of the protesters spoke pointedly about how their parents and others of their generation had failed to bring about the changes they are demanding. They present the youth-led nature of the current movement as proof that they will succeed where their predecessors had failed.
“I’m here because previous generations couldn’t do what we’re doing right now,” said Charlie Shebes, 16, another student from the high school, on a flight from Fort Lauderdale. “I want to see safer schools. I want to see changes in gun laws.”
The students have tapped into a powerful current of pro-gun-control sentiment that has been building for years. They have also partnered with well-funded liberal groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control advocacy group founded by former New York mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.