March 29 2018
On Saturday, March 24, hundreds of thousands of protesters, including Wheaton students, participated in the March for our Lives in Washington, D.C. to “demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” according to their website. Estimates of the number of protesters vary — while the March for Our Lives organizers reported 850,000 participants, Digital Designs and Imaging Services, Inc., a photography service, used aerial photos to estimate 200,000 participants.
Junior Laurel Nee, who travelled to D.C. for the march described it as: “a sea of like-minded people. Hundred of thousands of protesters standing on street curbs and traffic mediums to get a peek at who were, six weeks ago, completely average high school students.”
In addition to the march in D.C., over 800 sister marches took place across the country, as well as several international marches in cities like London, Tokyo, Brisbane, Copenhagen, Madrid, Rome and Paris.
The protests are in response to the numerous school shootings that have occurred recently, particularly the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The movement “is created by, inspired by and led by students of all ethnicities, religions and sexualities across the country,” according to their mission statement. Its goals are to establish background checks for gun purchasers, fund the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence, ban high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and eliminate restrictions on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the only federal agency that regulates the gun industry.
The march was organized and led by high school students. Nee told the Record,“It blew my mind that all of the speakers were younger than me! But when they rallied ‘our generation will be the generation of change’ I was included too. It was chilling to hear 16 and 17 year olds say, ‘I don’t have the ability yet to vote NRA politicians out of office — but you do!’”
Several Wheaton College students participated in the event, including junior Paul Green and senior Jordan Wear who, along with Nee drove for 24 hours to Washington, D.C. to march. “Whether you agree with the movement or not, it was so inspiring to hear the bold voices of youth from around the nation proclaiming ‘enough is enough’ on behalf of their fallen loved ones and terrorized friends,” Wear told the Record.
Green described the march as both inspiring and heart-wrenching. “I was inspired by the energy and passion of both the crowd and the students who organized the march. … My heart broke with every story that a kid shared of losing a loved one to gun violence. Hearing these kids talk about their twin brother, best friend, or younger sister reminded me that the survivors and loved ones affected by these shootings will never be the same.”
Senior Emily Paddon participated in the march in Chicago and appreciated the “focus on intersectionality,” saying that shootings have “been happening for years and years in the black communities in the south side of Chicago, and nobody’s really been talking about it until now.” Paddon said that the student leaders at the rally before the march were all people of color.
This is not the first group that has protested the shooting: Two weeks earlier, on March 14, thousands of students across the country participated in the National School Walkout, organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER. Students walked out of their classes for 17 minutes.
Solidarity organized a walkout at Wheaton, where students met outside their respective buildings to pray for 17 minutes.
The Creativity and Design class displayed their project, “Goodbye, my name was,” in Lower Beamer. The project showed the names and faces of the 17 shooting victims in the style of a school yearbook, along with a poster where students could sign the yearbook “in memory of those students who didn’t get their senior yearbooks and pictures,” according to the informational sign next to the display.
“I think the project is really well done and very powerful,” said sophomore Rebecca Carlson, who has lost a friend to a school shooting, which she survived. “I thought that my friend who was killed, Claire, would be the last person. I was thinking, ‘This can’t ever happen again.’ And yet it has, again and again. This upcoming generation is realizing that lawmakers aren’t standing up for them, so they need to stand up for themselves.”