Half a million people are expected to march in Washington tomorrow for the March for Our Lives protest against lax gun laws in the United States. The protest is the second big rally organised by students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Florida where 17 people died in a mass shooting on February 14.
Marchers in Washington will be joined by others all over the United States and even in other regions as teens across the world show their support. Oragnisers say they expect that a million people will be raising their voices against lax gun laws in the US.
“We recognise how fortunate we are to live in a city where gun crime is almost non-existent and where students feel safe in their schools. We feel this is a basic right that our fellow students in the US deserve,” said 15-year-old Lily Merrett, a student at International College Hong Kong and part of the Hong Kong march, in a press release. “We invite students, their parents, and anyone who supports sensible gun laws to join us on Sunday for a peaceful display of support.”
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The students have been unrelenting in their push to change gun laws in the United States, demanding that the age for gun ownership be raised and that certain gun accessories be banned.
They have won cash and kudos from big-name stars. Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Demi Lovato and Common are due to be among performers at Saturday’s main march in Washington DC, while “Trainwreck” actress Amy Schumer and pop star Charlie Puth are expected to headline a march in Los Angeles, organizers said.
“So inspired by the incredible students behind #MarchForOurLives. Can’t wait to join them in DC to perform and show my support,” Cyrus tweeted earlier this week.
“Proud of these kids,” Justin Bieber wrote on Twitter.
Oprah Winfrey calls them “warriors of the light,” actor Bill Murray says the young Florida gun control campaigners remind him of the students who rallied to end the Vietnam War, and George Clooney has donated $500,000 to their cause.
They've even inspired the elderly, with grannies and grandads bannered up and ready to march, well, picket mostly. But more importantly they will be handing out cookies. Hundreds of them, reports the Washington Post.
“We’ll be handing out heart-shaped cookies because we want to say to those young people, ‘We love you, and we’re going to do what we can to help take care of you,’ ” Tina Hobson said.
Phyllis Richman, 78, said seeing students who have participated in protests and walkouts around the country these past few weeks filled her with a renewed drive to do something to help.
In the retirement community, she said, there is constant programming meant to entertain the seniors who live there: Movie nights, speakers, gym class, spa nights.
“All these things, they’re here to entertain us, and we don’t want to be entertained. We want to help,” Richman said. “We get discounted because we’re women and we’re old and we’re any number of things.”
“But we’re not dead yet,” added Sophie Ruotolo, 97.
Meanwhile the students have also taken aim at the National Rifle Association, a powerful organisation that puts millions into politics and wants to ensure that citizens access to guns is as free as possible.
They have named and shamed companies that deal with the NRA and several of them and stopped dealing with the association.
Yesterday YouTube said the starting next month it will ban content that promotes guns and gun sales, reports the The Washington Post. The move sparked anger from the pro-gun lobby who said it amounted to censorship.
Some parents in Washington have opened their homes to students who will be arriving from other places around the US.
The march is the second nationwide protest sparked by the students who immeidately took to social media after the shooting to call for tighter gun laws. On March 14 thousands of students across the country walked out of class, even though many of them were well aware that they would be punished for their stand.
Supporters have been crowdfunding to send pizza to the 225 students at Pennridge high school in Pennsylvania. The school board had warned the students that if they took part in the walk out they would face Saturday morning detention.
Anna Sophie Tinneny, one of the students who helped to organise the protests and get the message out on social media , told the Guardian: “Two hundred and twenty-five students walked out of the front doors for 17 minutes of silence and a few speeches afterwards. As we walked into the school, we were put in single-file lines and had to sign up for detention before returning to class.”
Undeterred, the students turned the detention into a sit-in.
The students’ fate caught the eye of social media users and the local community rallied round. Some went to the school before the detention started, bringing doughnuts, coffee, snacks and signs in support of the protest.
California-based Minette Nelson, who helps run the youth politics outreach campaign EighteenX18 , arranged to have 20 pizzas brought to the school when the two-hour detention finished at 10am. People have also been using the #Pizza4Protesters hashtag to support a crowdfunding appeal to have pizza delivered to the school for the next round of detentions.
They have also drawn the support of those affected by earlier gun violence.
Kaitlynn Willoughby was frustrated by how quickly gun control debates stalled after the worst mass shooting in modern US history. On October 1 last year, 58 people were killed at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas by a shooter using the same weapon accessory, a bump stock, as the one in the Florida High School. It still has not been banned.
Her friend, 20-year-old Quinton Robbins, was among the 58 people killed Oct. 1 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. By the holidays, just weeks later, calls for change dissipated.
“No one was listening to us yet,” the 18-year-old high school senior said. “After Las Vegas, it was just another shooting.”
Willoughby is among those planning to march tomorrow. “The Parkland event allowed us to gain traction,” Willoughby said. “Those students refused to be silent. They started in Florida and it spread nationwide.”
On Thursday, a new USA Today/Ispos survey shed light on another consequence of gun violence in America: for the generation that have grown up in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine high school massacre, the threat of mass shootings is a defining fear.
According to the poll of young individuals aged 13 to 24, which included more than 600 students, nearly one in five respondents said they feel unsafe at school, while one in four said they thought it was somewhat or very likely that a classmate will bring a gun to school.
The survey also found that more than one in three young people across the US planned to join the March for Our Lives protests on Saturday, either in person or via social media.
Australian students and politicians have rallied in Sydney today to show their support.
“No Australian student has gone to school fearing for their life because of yet another mass shooting,” said Labor’s deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek. “It’s not because our kids are so different, it’s because our laws are so different."