Student organizers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will be far from alone as they rally on March 24 to demand an end to mass shootings and gun violence. More than 800 sister marches are expected to take place around the world in solidarity with the main event in Washington, D.C., including a Las Vegas event that will start at The Smith Center at 10 a.m. and continue on to Las Vegas City Hall. Rallying behind the popular hashtags #MarchforOurLives and #Iwillmarch, members of the public are gearing up to join what they hope will be a movement to put an end to school shootings and other such tragic incidents. In the wake of a flurry of violence over the past several years, march organizers say they feel nervous, excited and ready to feel the impact in their communities. Here is a look at movements going on in the United States and beyond.
Cora Haworth, a 14-year-old volunteer with the press committee for March for Our Lives Chicago, is bothered by the stereotypes of violence that often permeate media discussions about her home.
Though gun violence in the third most populated U.S. city has drawn its fair share of attention, what has been overlooked is the disproportionate impact of that violence on local communities of color, many of which have been calling for changes in gun laws for decades, Haworth says.
“Inclusion is a really big part of the march,” she says. “In addition to marching to combat school shootings, we’re also marching for communities of color.”
The Chicago march, with partners including Black Lives Matter Chicago, will emphasize unity and the need to minimize the impact of gun violence on all communities. Haworth says it feels empowering to be part of the group, which she hopes will bring together Chicago and other cities to demand a change in national gun laws.
“We care about what is going on in our society, and we care that politicians aren’t making the change,” she says.
While the national gun debate may be making waves in many regions, it is particularly noteworthy in Texas, often called one of the most gun-friendly states in the country.
The Houston march, which 28-year-old teacher Alyssa DuPree sparked by creating a Facebook event, will end at the office of Republican senator Ted Cruz, who was raised in the area and has received an A+ rating as well as donations from the National Rifle Association.
Cruz has expressed vocal opposition in the past to what he said is Democrats’ “aggressive gun control agenda.”
DuPree, a sixth-grade language arts instructor, read victims’ social media descriptions in the wake of the Parkland shooting and was awestruck. She thought of her students, just a few years younger than the Parkland teens, and how they’d witnessed so many of these scenes play out nationally. “I was imaging my sixth graders having to see that if something like that happened at my school,” she says, “and it just kills me.”
Though the stereotypical perception of Texas promotes it as a Wild West outpost “full of gunslinging outlaws,” the truth is that the march has received much support from gun owners in the area, Dupree says.
“We want to make sure that we’re making good moral choices for every single citizen in the United States,” she says. “It’s not about taking away rights or freedoms; it’s about saving lives.”
It’s not just in the U.S. that the Parkland shooting is sparking strong emotions and calls for change. In Scotland, where a March 1996 mass shooting at Dunblane Primary School killed 16 children and their teacher, people affected by the tragedy have been reaching out to American transplant Kiara Sarner, one of the co-organizers of the March for Our Lives in Edinburgh.
“I get messages in my inbox from people from Dunblane saying, ‘Thank you so much for doing this,'” she says.
Sarner and a group of mostly American expats in Scotland have taken the lead in organizing a rally in Edinburgh outside of the American consulate. The hope is to send a message to Americans that not only is the world feeling their loss, but they have the power if they wish to pass gun reforms, as Britain did in the wake of the Dunblane shooting despite opposition. “It is possible,” she says.