People in their hundreds of thousands rallied in countries across the world as part of the March For Our Lives demonstrations. Organised to protest the American government’s failure to strengthen gun laws in the wake of yet another armed massacre, March For Our Lives, stemmed from the #NeverAgain movement, inspired by students from Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School, the scene of a school shooting which claimed the lives of 17 people.
The unprecedented protests, all the more poignant for being led by America’s youth, demanded Congress introduce new legislation to prevent further shootings. Politicians who received contributions from the National Rifle Association were specifically highlighted for their inaction.
Crowds lined the streets in Washington DC to witness Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the school shooting who has been at the forefront of the #NeverAgain movement, powerfully address her fellow demonstrators. Ms Gonzalez, the bisexual president of Stoneman Douglas High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, stood in silence for 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the amount of time it took for the shooter to murder her classmates and teachers.
Ms Gonzalez and her fellow Parkland students at the core of the movement have drawn the ire of right-wing media and pro-gun supporters alike for their refusal to remain silent in the face of adversity. In an interview, Ms. Gonzalez said being open with her bisexuality gave her strength. “They’re definitely linked for me personally,” she said. “If I wasn’t so open about who I was I never would’ve been able to do this”.
Survivors of the Pulse shooting, the Orlando LGBT nightclub massacre where a gunman killed 49 people, marched with their friends, families and supporters, including Queer Eye host Karamo Brown. Brandon Wolf, the friend of Christopher Leinonen, one of those killed, said he was marching for his friend and “The life that he deserved, that he should be living. I’m marching every step for him”.
In a much-needed celebration of life, activists from Gays Against Guns and local drag queens invited protestors to catwalk down a pink carpet, to show the NRA how to sashay away.
Perhaps the most striking moment of the March For Our Lives protests, sadly made all the more powerful by the age of the speaker, came when 11-year-old Naomi Wadler addressed the crowds.
Speaking for African American women who are disproportionately large victims of gun violence, Wadler said, “People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It is not true”. she continued, “My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school but we know. We know that life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong.”
With the March For Our Lives protests seemingly just the beginning of a long battle against entrenched gun laws, Ms Gonzalez spurred demonstrators on as she closed her address by saying “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job”.
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