More than a million demonstrators, most of them young, took to the streets of America yesterday to send a message to elected officials and the National Rifle Association: “No more.”
An estimated 800,000 protesters marched and rallied on the National Mall in Washington, and hundreds of thousands attended March for our Lives events in cities large and small.
A few thousand people turned out in Milwaukee, despite blustery weather. There were no counter-protesters or incidents.
Yesterday was also the beginning of a 50-mile march over four days from Madison to Janesville to protest Paul Ryan's "inaction” on gun control.
Yesterday’s marches were held in response to a Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 16 students and a teacher were shot down, making the incident one of the nation’s worst mass school shootings. The suspect is a mentally ill 19-year-old former student at the school, who was equipped with an AR-15, a military-grade weapon.
Celebrities joined young voices in addressing crowds in Washington, New York and other cities. But the day belonged to the youth of America. One by one, they took to podiums across America to talk about the enormity of their losses and their fears of gun violence.
Perhaps most importantly, they fired a warning shot to the officials who take money from the NRA in exchange for following the group’s legislative marching orders. As 11-year-old Naomi Wadler told listeners in Washington: "We … stand in the shadow of the Capitol, and we know that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote,” she said. Wadler told her audience that she marched not only for students but for the untold thousands of African-American women and girls who were gunned down daily in the shadows of an indifferent nation.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg, who’s emerged as something of a March for Life spokesperson, delivered a bold, energizing speech in which he vowed that a movement had begun and was not going away. “No more,” he said, threatening elected officials who take money from the NRA and fail to take action against gun violence.
“Get your resume ready,” he told them.
Unabashed, the NRA ridiculed the events, claiming they were organized by billionaires and Hollywood to support a left-wing political agenda. The children, they said, were mere pawns in what it called the “March for Lies” movement.
Although adults helped in securing permits, trucks, sound systems and other logistical necessities, the March for Lives events were otherwise organized and promoted by the youth.
The NRA has been trying to raise funds off the Parkland shooting by asserting that responses to the killings were aimed at taking away Americans’ 2nd Amendment right to bear firearms. The sent out 13 such tweets during a nationwide school walkout on March 14.
While the NRA went silent yesterday, prior to the marches it posted a Facebook video mocking the march as a “carnival.”
“From where I’m standing, it looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts that they don’t like in crayon,” said an NRA TV host who goes under the name Colion Noir.
“These kids ought to be marching against their own hypocritical belief structures,” he added. “The only reason we’ve ever heard of them is because the guns didn’t come soon enough.”
The NRA, which is one of the nation’s most feared and influential special-interest groups, says it has five million members. But the group is primarily funded by the mega-rich gun industry.
In recent years, as mass shootings have become more destructive and more visible, many states, including Wisconsin, have weakened rather than strengthened gun laws. Last year, Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders enacted a law allowing infants to own firearms.
Below are pictures of yesterday’s march in Milwaukee taken by Larry Zamba of Zamba Photography in Kenosha.