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On Saturday, March 24, people across the US and worldwide — from London to Paris to Mauritius to Mumbai — took to the streets to protest for stricter gun laws. The mass demonstrations, which took place under the banner “March For Our Lives,” were instigated by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to ensure no more innocent lives would be lost to gun violence, like the shooting experienced at the school on February 14.
One of the biggest rallies was in Washington DC, where the Parkland, Florida students and families, were joined by an estimated 800,000 people including celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Jennifer Hudson who lost her mother, brother, and nephew in a 2008 shooting. Over the course of the day, youngsters who had experienced gun violence firsthand delivered poignant and articulated messages to the large crowd.
Parkland student Emma Gonzalez, one of the key organizers of the student-led-protests, began with a touching speech in which she listed the 17 people who had been killed at her school. The 17-year-old then fell silent for a few minutes until an alarm beeped. She noted the time – six minutes and 20 seconds. Then, with tears pouring down her face, stated: "Since the time I came out here, it has been 6 minutes 20 seconds, and the shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free an hour before arrest.” She urged the solemn crowd to “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else's job."
Yolanda Reese King, the granddaughter of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., followed in her grandfather’s footsteps by voicing her dream. The nine-year-old told the attentive audience, "I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world - period.”
Also present were survivors and family from Sandy Hook Elementary School, which underwent a similar tragedy in 2012, resulting in 27 deaths. Mathew Soto, who lost his sister in the shooting, spoke eloquently, saying, "America, I am pleading with you to realize this is not OK.” He urged US officials to "Show those that say our lives are not more important than a gun, that we are important."
In Manhattan, New York, the over 175,000 protestors were joined by former Beatles member Sir Paul McCartney, who lost his friend and bandmate John Lennon to gun violence in 1980. In Spain, six-year-old Lucia Smith marched with her mother to show her support for the US students. Former President Barack Obama also lent his support with a tweet that said, "Michelle and I are so inspired by all the young people who made today's marches happen. Keep at it. You're leading us forward. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change."
While this protest was successful beyond anyone’s imagination, the students are not resting on their laurels. There is already chatter of a similar march on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that resulted in 13 deaths. As New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “This is a movement that has JUST BEGUN.” The youngsters plan on continuing until US legislators comply with their three demands — ban assault weapons, stop the sale of high-capacity magazines, and implement a law requiring background checks on all gun purchases, regardless of where they are sold.