“Let us pray with our legs, let us march in unison to the rhythm of justice, because I say enough is enough,” said one Parkland shooting survivor.
Written By | Phil McCausland
Hundreds of thousands of kids across the country are expected to participate in rallies Saturday as part of the March for Our Lives movement that was born out of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff members.
The main event will occur in Washington, where student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will lead a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
The students intend to send a message to President Donald Trump and Congress and demand that their politicians pursue gun legislation to make it harder to acquire firearms. Their goal is to stem “the epidemic of mass schools shootings that has become all too familiar,” according to their mission statement.
Demetri Hoth, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, spoke alongside Florida politicians and other students from D.C., Chicago and Minneapolis at a press conference at Capitol Hill on Friday.
“I stand before you here today to invite you, students and parents across America: Let us pray with our legs, let us march in unison to the rhythm of justice, because I say enough is enough,” Hoth said.
March for Our Lives events Friday included a voter registration drive, a concert and a candlelight vigil.
A Rock the Vote event — hosted by the National Education Association and run in partnership with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Urban League — took place Friday at 6 p.m.
A benefit concert at 6:30 p.m. was scheduled to include a number of notable artists, including Fall Out Boy, G-Eazy, Bebe Rexha, Lizzo and others. At 7 p.m., the Washington National Cathedral hosted an interfaith prayer vigils for those who planned to participate in the march.
Prior to all three events, some Parkland students met with members of Congress and former Vice President Joe Biden in private meetings, while others shared their mass shooting experiences at the Newseum.
All seemed to push for the same thing, however: more restrictive gun laws.
“Stop being coerced by the NRA,” Hoth said, speaking to Congress. “I urge you propose meaningful gun safety laws, vote yea to bills that advance gun control, and sing along with us to the melody of justice, never again, never again, never again.”
The Washington Metropolitan Police have limited the event to three entrances where participants may join the march on Saturday. Organizers expect around 30,000 people to attend Saturday’s rally.
“The support we’ve gotten is unimaginable,” said Casey Sherman, a Stoneman Douglas junior and one of the main organizers. “So we’re really excited for this Saturday: It’s going to be incredible. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of all the work that we and students across the country and across the world have been doing.”
Sherman said that approximately 20 Stoneman Douglas students had worked to organize the march, but he said many more would be pitching in on Saturday.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told MSNBC that the country owed a debt to this group of Parkland students, who he planned to meet prior to the march.
“I’m going to look them in the eye and say, thank you to the students of Parkland and the students around the country who are finally changing the conversation here on Capitol Hill,” he said.
And those students aren’t holding back. The March for Our Lives website allows attendees to print out a “price tag” of $1.05 to wear at the event. That price is the amount the NRA contributed to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., divided by the number of students in Florida, which organizers argue is how much each student is worth to the two-term senator.
The event also aims to be a massive voter registration push, as participants are encouraged to download “Voter Registration Toolkits” that are state specific and ensure those they know join the voter rolls.
While hundreds of thousands of marchers are expected to join in throughout the United States — with demonstrations planned in Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles — there are a handful of solidarity events organized on Friday and Saturday in countries across the globe. Rallies are planned in Israel, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. Japan, Belgium, India, France and Chile.
Valentina Pedroza, 17, who traveled to D.C. for the march from Boston, said a close family friend was a victim of gun violence.
“It hit us hard. A lot of students and other people from Boston suffer from gun violence daily,” Pedroza said, “and I’m just here to represent other teenagers who have died in the city.”
“We’re hoping to actually see change and have our voices be heard, so that senators and representatives and the government finally rise up and realize they’re doing the wrong thing here,” she said.
Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Courage, gun control advocacy groups, are helping the sister marches throughout the country coordinate with the March for Our Lives movement, and they’re also acting as advisers to the teen organizers.
“We’ve really been getting a lot of advice and help in that area from people who have that experience,” Sherman said. “Of course we’re advising [on] everything … but we’ve really been focusing on those last kind of little final pieces … that’ll make our march so much more.”
A number of celebrities showered praise on the students. Some, including Miley Cyrus, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Common and Ben Platt, also planned to join them on Saturday.
Meanwhile, back in Parkland, their teachers and parents also applauded the students’ efforts.
Gregory Pittman, an American history teacher, said at a Stoneman Douglas pep rally on Tuesday that he was proud of his students, as they had taken what they’d learned in the classroom and applied it in the real world. He believed that this movement would only continue to grow.
“This is not the end of what they’re going to do,” he said. “This is only the beginning both in Florida and definitely in Washington. We’ve only started in Washington.”
rong thing here,” she said.