Maybe what was most extraordinary about the March for Our Lives, inWashington, D.C., on Saturday, was not its size, though that wasimpressive—likely hundreds of thousands of people in a long, dense ribbon winding down Pennsylvania Avenue. It wasn’t the consistent demandfor a ban on assault-style weapons, or the focus on defeatingpoliticians who take money from the National Rifle Association. (Timeand again, the crowd broke into spontaneous chants of “Vote them out!”)What was most remarkable was the event’s inclusiveness. In the six weekssince the young survivors of Parkland, Florida, jump-started a vibrantnew movement for gun control, its leadership has managed to broaden thelocus of concern beyond mass shootings at comfortable suburban schoolslike Marjory Stoneman Douglas, to gun violence in urban neighborhoods aswell.
At a Friday night interfaith prayer vigil held at the NationalCathedral, one of the most powerful speakers was the gun-controlactivist Lucy McBath, whose seventeen-year-old son Jordan Davis—her onlychild—was shot to death by a white man who’d objected to the volume ofmusic playing from Davis’s car in a gas-station parking lot. Thespeakers at Saturday’s rally included students from Marjory StonemanDouglas, who talked about the sudden intrusion of terror into theirlives on February 14th, and young black and Latino activists fromChicago and Los Angeles who talked about the threats they faced fromguns every day.
Edna Chavez, a seventeen-year-old student from Manual Arts High School,in Los Angeles, led the crowd in chanting the name of herbrother—Ricardo—who had been killed by a gun. She said she was there to“stand up with the Parkland students” and to “uplift my South LosAngeles community.” A strikingly self-possessed eleven-year-old namedNaomi Wadler took the stage to, as she said, “represent theAfrican-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simplystatistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”
“For far too long, these black girls and women have been just numbers,”she said. “I am here to say never again for those girls, too.”
David Nelson had come up from Fayetteville, North Carolina, with his twodaughters, fourteen-year-old Skylor and nine-year-old Giada. It was thefirst protest march for all three of them. David is African-American anda fifty-three-year-old former Green Beret. He said he knew fromfirsthand experience how much damage assault weapons could do. “Even forvets,” he said, “with all their stress issues, having these thingsreadily available is a terrible risk.” Nelson said he’d worried aboutgun violence breaking out at schools ever since the first day he droppedhis older daughter off at day care. But he was hopeful today. He saw thepossibility for a new, multiracial coalition for sensible gun-controlmeasures, and thought it might make sense for women to lead it, since“they really don’t commit mass shootings.” Skylor was enthusiastic aboutthe role young people were playing in the movement, and noted that “ourgeneration is more inclusive.”
I spent the morning before the march with a group ofabout twenty high-school teachers and students from the CardozoEducation Campus, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of D.C. Most wereCentral American immigrants who’d lived in the United States for only afew years, and some had come as unaccompanied minors. They’d beeninterested in the Parkland students and in the march, but some had beenhesitant to join at first, Wedad Yassin, one of their teachers, said.Many of the students work, and would have to put in double shifts atrestaurant jobs on what was expected to be a busy weekend in D.C. Mosthad not been to protests before, and didn’t know if it would bedangerous to go. Others wondered if protests made any difference. Butwhen they talked about it in class, Herson Romero, who is from ElSalvador, said, he and some of his fellow-students were surprised tolearn that you could buy a gun at eighteen, though you cannot buyalcohol. He’d been “thinking about what happened in Florida and lookingat the news all the time.” Even though he was nervous about it, hedecided to attend.
When Romero and some of the other Cardozo students gathered to makeposters at Carecen, a resource center for Latino immigrants in D.C., themood was upbeat. “All the poster board in Columbia heights is sold out!”Camila Salvador, one of the Carecen staffers, announced. “That’s a goodthing!” She pointed out that, according to the U.S. government, many ofthe guns in which Central America is awash come from the UnitedStates—and since many of the students had fled gun violence in theirhome countries, this ought to be relevant to them. Elizabeth Barkley,another Cardozo teacher, pointed to a sign a student had made that said,“Fear has no place in school.” “The students come here to escape suchfear, and you want to be able to protect them, you want them to be ableto feel safe,” she said.
A couple of hours later, the Cardozo students werewalking slowly—that was the only way you could move in this crowd—alongPennsylvania Avenue, under a bright blue sky. Herson held up a sign thatsaid “Enough is Enough!!!” One of his classmates held one that said onone side, “No necesitas una pistola para sentirte poderoso” and on theother side, the English translation: “You don’t need a gun to feelpowerful.” On Saturday, that seemed to be true. Suddenly there were newways for the powerless to be heard.
On – 25 Mar, 2018 By Margaret Talbot