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March for Our Lives D.C. draws Parkland Alumni and community

The March for Our Lives protest, organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to raise awareness and support for gun control, gathered an estimated crowd of 800,000 in D.C. in addition to over 700 sibling marches held around the world.

The event, which took place on Saturday, March 24, has been in the works since mid-February, shortly after a shooting took place at a high school in Parkland, Florida, leaving 17 dead and 20 injured. Since the beginning of 2018, there have been 17 accounts of gun violence in schools, creating a public outcry for gun control in the U.S.

Seventeen teenagers affected by gun violence spoke at the event on Saturday, including MSD students Sara Chadwick, Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr, Alex Wind and Emma Gonzalez. Each student during the event emphasized the importance of youth votes and eradicating the influence of the National Rifle Association, a pro-gun advocacy and lobbying group, funding in government.

Chadwick opened up her speech by dividing the 3.3 million dollars U.S. Senator Marco Rubio received from the NRA by public school students in Florida, his state. It amounted to $1.05 per student, which priced the 17 lives lost on Feb. 14 at $17.85.

“Is that our worth to politicians, $1.05? Was $17.85 all it cost you that day, Mr. Rubio?” asked Chadwick. “Well, I say one life is worth more than all the guns in America.”

Hogg echoed Chadwick’s statements, starting his speech by tying a $1.05 price tag to the podium mike. “We’re going to make this the voting issue, we’re going to take this to every election to every state, in every city,” said Hogg.

“When people try to suppress your vote, and there are people who stand against you because you are too young, we say no more,” he continued.

González focused more on the event itself, and opened her speech on how long the shooting lasted: “Six minutes and about 20 seconds; in a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone, in the Douglas community was forever altered.” She named each person killed in the massacre, followed by a vigil of silence.

“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and twenty seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with students as they escape and walk free for an hour for arrest. Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job,” said González before exiting the stage.

Multiple MSD alumni groups organized to march in D.C., including students who graduated as recently as 2017. Philip, from the graduating class of 2016 and student at UCF, traveled to D.C. with friends and fellow MSD grads.

“Well, It was more like a nightmare when we first found out, but seeing the support and everything was definitely really awesome,” said Philip, who had been on the swim team with a victim from the shooting, Nicholas Dworet. The graduates had known several of the student activists speaking, as well as those murdered, and described the shooting and events following as surreal.

Another student, Ian, a current University of Florida student who hails from Parkland, stated, “I know some of those people on stage, but I know them as kids; that’s what they actually are, they’re teenagers. And to just see them given a role and given a platform that they don’t — they shouldn’t have to have…it should be the adults twenty years ago, it should be the adults five years ago at Sandy Hook — there’s so many opportunities that we’ve had to make this [gun violence] less of an issue, and the fact that it had to happen on our soil, that our kids had to make something happen about this, is ridiculous.”

The alumni group unanimously agreed that the horror of the event brought them and the greater Parkland community closer, and incites pride in their hometown as students rally for change. All of the students plan to vote in the upcoming elections, and believe that relevant change can and will be made following the protests.