US Students Lead Massive Protests to Demand Gun Control
People gathered in cities across America on Saturday for massive student-led protests to demand stronger gun control measures.
Hundreds of thousands took part in large "March for Our Lives" protests. They took place in major cities including Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and Parkland, Florida. Parkland was the site of the February 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead. Some international cities also held demonstrations.
The protests were organized by students after the Parkland shooting. One of the largest took place in Washington D.C. Several survivors of the Stoneman Douglas tragedy spoke to the crowd from a stage set up on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Among the survivors to speak was 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez, one of the leaders of the student-led gun control movement. She began by saying it took the gunman in the Parkland shooting only a little over six minutes to kill 17 people, and injure 15 others.
With tears in her eyes, she read the names of her friends – and other victims - who died in the shooting. At one point, Gonzalez stopped speaking and just looked into the crowd, silent, for several minutes. At times during the silence, people in the crowd shouted repeatedly: "never again! never again!"
Gonzalez then broke her silence by explaining that her speech had lasted just as long as the killings.
"Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds."
She noted that this was all the time the gunman needed to carry out the killings, before dropping his gun and trying to hide in the crowd of escaping students. In the attack, suspect Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon that was bought legally. Cruz was arrested a short time after the crime.
Gonzalez ended her speech by urging supporters to take a strong stand to prevent future violence.
"Fight for your lives, before it's someone else's job."
Alex Wind is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He spoke to the protesters about why students from across the nation had risen up since the shooting to demand gun reforms.
"We, as students, as youths, decided that if adults weren't going to take action, we would. No gun-related legislation has been passed in this country since 2008 – 10 years ago."
He added that since 2008, there had been dozens of mass shootings in the United States. In addition, there have been rising violence rates in cities such as Miami, Chicago and Baltimore. "It needs to stop," he said.Organizers decided to have only students speak at the March for Our Lives. Several famous music artists performed for the event, including Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Common.
Carson Gosine is a high school student from Miami, Florida who traveled to Washington D.C. for the march.
"We're out here because we're afraid. We're afraid to go into our schools because of the danger of people with dangerous weapons coming into our schools and massacring us. We've become afraid, we're terrified."
He said he hopes the massive student-led demonstrations will be noted by the U.S. Congress and cause lawmakers to finally act.
Leila is also a student from Florida. She too said she holds hope that there can finally be legislative changes if pressure is kept up in protests like these.
"I think it is possible, of course. With events like today, this many people - people are coming and voicing their opinion, and showing how they feel - there's definitely... where there's a will there's a way."
Logan Brenan attends high school in the state of Maryland and came to Washington to demonstrate with a group of friends.
"We're not protesting the right to have guns, we're not protesting the Second Amendment. We just want to see the Second Amendment in more its original form, of just a few small guns that really can't do any real harm."
The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment relates to weapons rights of citizens. Brenan added that he thinks there should be new laws requiring tougher background checks for gun buyers and bans on assault-style weapons.
Emma Luce attends school in Cincinnati, Ohio.
"I'm tired of being afraid when I hear sirens coming. I'm tired of having to do active shooter drills every single month. I'm tired of Congress and our president just not doing anything about it."
Sofia Balcius is a high school junior from the Midwestern state of Indiana. She decided to attend the protest with her father.
"Well, I think that because this new generation of students are rising up – and we're the next generation of voters. And I think that this new generation is really going to keep this issue around, that we are not going away anytime soon."
Sofia says she is very angry with the lack of legislative change on the gun control issue. Her father, Minda, is completely supportive of his daughter. He says he also wants stronger gun control to prevent future tragedies. He thinks the new student-led movement might actually have the chance to make a difference.
"I think as adults we're failing this younger generation to protect them, to make them safe. And if adults cannot get this done, I hope that this younger generation achieves this goal of making the schools safer."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn reported this story for VOA Learning English, with additional information coming from the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
massacre – n. the violent killing of many people
original – adj. happening first or existing at the beginning
drill – n. practice or exercises done to increase preparation and skills
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 17VOA.COM.