What we can learn from the March for Our Lives

What+we+can+learn+from+the+March+for+Our+Lives

Sofia Adamski, Reporter

Attendants at the March for Our Lives touted signs that read ‘Minorities don’t have the same rights as guns in this country.’ ‘I’m tired of watching my friends get slaughtered.’ ‘No more excuses: Vote them out.’ ‘Maybe if we gave AR-15s vaginas,’ one sign snarled, ‘the government would try to regulate them!!!’ Other signs were humorous, more lighthearted in nature than their counterparts; ‘Buns not guns’ was a favorite.

I decided to participate in the march following the Aztec shooting. Gun violence wasn’t just a post  I could like out of sympathy on Instagram. I could no longer passively read a headline and forget about it ten minutes later. It became much more personal to me.

The March for Our Lives,  one of the largest organized protests in American history, took place on March 24, 2018, with over 800 sister events across the United States and the world. While it’s hard to predict crowd sizes exactly, satellite images show crowds that go above the 500,000 attendance estimate; however, no picture can accurately represent being in the crowd, in a massive gathering of people, ducking between signs and shoulders and the occasional stroller.

Events this large don’t come without controversy. A fabricated photo showing event organizer and Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez tearing the Constitution apart being circulated widely by conservative Twitter users – the original showed Gonzalez ripping up shooting range targets. Another claim targeting Gonzalez said that she admitted to bullying Nikolas Cruz; the claim was taken out-of-context from a quote that reveals that Marjory-Stoneman Douglas students had alerted school officials to Cruz’s potentially dangerous behavior.

The days leading up to the march were filled with murmuring electricity. It was nearly impossible to not feel it. Instagram’s explore page was filled with posts about it. CNN, Fox, MSNBC- every major news network -reported on it on the days leading up to, and on the morning of, the demonstration. Families and organized school trips filled the National Mall, and dozens of people wore shirts advertising the march. One would be hard-pressed to find a room where at least five or ten people weren’t wearing a shirt protesting semi-automatic weapons.

We met an organizer, named simply Jim M., in the food court of the National Portrait Gallery. He walked around slowly, approaching people wearing March for Our Lives paraphernalia. He made polite small talk with us, asking us where we were from and why we were here. We told him about the Aztec shooting, noting that it didn’t receive the same national coverage as other shootings. He shook his head sadly. “It’s terrible,” he said. “Something has to be done. It’s terrible.” He paused for a moment, then walked away.

“Would you like some literature?” A girl, no older than seventeen, asked cheerfully on the morning of the march. She pressed a neatly folded pamphlet into our hands. “Congratulations,” it read, “on participating in the beginning of the revolution.” She, along with hundreds of others handing out flyers, as well selling buttons, shirts, and hoodies, formed a sort of human pathway to the mouth of the rally. As we got closer, the vendors thickened. Food trucks lined 7th Street Northwest, located about six blocks away from the rally. Men yelled and waved shirts. “Two for ten dollars! Two for ten!”

For three hours, we marched – or, more accurately, trudged – our way through the mass of humanity that brought downtown Washington to a standstill. From the foot of the Capitol to the steps of the White House more than a mile west, Pennsylvania Avenue and its offsets were completely drowned with people. From 30 ft. screens, demonstrators could watch as speakers from MSD student David Hogg to celebrities such as Demi Lovato.

The most important thing I learned from the march is a principle that we raise our children on, one that we place on a pedestal our entire lives, but rarely act upon in a manner this large. I reflected on this as we stood in front of the Newseum. Arguably, the March for Our Lives was more heavily focused on the Second Amendment and how it has failed us in a modern context. In a larger-than-life rendition of the First Amendment displayed on the front of the Newseum, however, brought into focus another important element of the march.  

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Without those 45 words, the March for Our Lives would be nearly, if not outright, impossible. We are taught to exercise our rights outlined in the First Amendment nearly from the moment we’re born, and to actively participate in a demonstration that will, in time, bring change to this country.